Innovate Like a Lean Startup

iStock_000009200146XSmallEnterprise organizations are taking a rigorous look at the principles used in the Lean Startup movement. They are carefully considering how they can incorporate the approach for building and launching new products faster to increase revenues and reduce costs.

Why? Speed of innovation and time-to-market can translate to millions in revenue gained or millions in lost opportunity costs for organizations of every size. One known fact for product-based businesses is that the typical time for market development can no longer take years for planning to launch. Competitive forces require organizations to be in cycles of continuous improvement and a constant state of innovation.

Some businesses acquire other businesses to gain momentum, others set up lean approaches within their product development and design centers. If enterprises want to compete with the “young and restless” entrepreneur community, they need to consider moving faster in definition, development and bringing new products to market.

The father of the lean movement is Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. The Lean Startup methodology promotes shorter product development cycles driven by experimentation and validated learning. Instead of waiting until the final product is “complete” before launch, the lean practice recommends to use iterative releases to confirm adoption and use cases for a minimum viable product.

The constant develop-release cycle provides for ongoing feedback to modify and pivot to meet buyer and user needs faster. The goal for this technique is to speed products to market, maximizing early product adoption cycles and capturing the most market opportunity. This all translates to revenue.

The risks associated to this approach are primarily related to creating products that seem to never be finished. Consumers must have a strong loyalty to stay committed to products that are always upgrading. Businesses have to evaluate the risk-rewards of being first to market with products that are viable and utilize the information gained in the customer feedback process during each release to keep customers happy.

The growing consideration of going lean for many business owners today is whether they do so through an M&A strategy or reorganization of the product development operation. “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” – Eric Ries

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, @jglass8

This article appeared in the CKS Advisors CKS Updates May 2013 Newsletter.  Visit www.cksadvisors.com for additional information.

When Do You Create a Board of Advisors

iStock_000005458028XSmallThere comes a time when assembling a group of experts to help grow your business is considered smart leadership and a business best practice. When you reach a stage in your business where you have exhausted the collective internal experience, knowledge and skill to achieve your next phase of growth — create a Board of Advisors.

Every purpose of creating a board will differ for each organization. A business owner may be faced with great opportunity for rapid growth or significant challenges from conquering the next ascent in revenue, market or product expansion. The appropriate time to consider assembling a board is when the business path forward is less clear or cluttered with obstacles that could derail you from achieving your business goals. You have reached that period in your business when their is more “unknown” and you fear what you don’t know.

A Board of Advisors is different from local peer groups, leadership councils, service providers and executive mentors. Your board is a committed team of individuals working on your business. Advisors should have congruent skills that compliment your leadership. As an example, you may find that by adding a distinguished industry expert or technical guru best serves the next phase of your business  Adding market or sales expertise can open new doors, while a finance or legal expert can provide insight to reduce risk.

Experienced executives want to help entrepreneurs, startups and leaders that seek advice to grow their business.  It validates their business “wear and tear”, while providing meaning and value to their experience. The board should round out your executive court, as these advisors are typically not available to hire as full-time employees and can be “unaffordable” for smaller businesses. They also may be those exclusive experts that will always be in a role of advising and never work for a single entity.

The reason you bring experts together as board members is to increase effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making and strategic planning. A board will perform best when there is an exchange of ideas in an organized environment, centered around a single business issue. The board format is designed to solve problems. Each board member brings a different set of experiences, viewpoints and resources. Having a board working together with you to assess challenges and discuss opportunities, gives you invaluable advise that can save you significant time and money versus the “learn as you go” approach.

Board of Advisors are not in a role of governance. They do not have fiduciary responsibility to protect shareholders or investors, though they should be very responsible in providing any guidance related to financials or spending company money. Only an elected Board of Directors for a public corporation or non-profit have governance over a company. The Board of Advisors is a non-binding group of mentors and experts that work collectively with company leadership to achieve your business goals.

Advisors should be completely aligned with your goal and mission and also be able to challenge you by providing recommendations and views that will differ from your own. You do not want a board that agrees with all your ideas or thinks as one. Why waste your time.  They should differ in expertise and have the ability to assess short-term and long-term strategies, out loud in a group discussion, without fear of reprisal.

A board is typically five to six members, excluding the CEO or business owner.  A Board of Advisors should consist of experienced and skilled individuals in varied areas where your business is lacking in comparable talent. In the early stage of a business, Board of Advisors are typically unpaid and may or may not have a long-term financial commitment through future equity.  As a business leader, be cautious of giving away ownership in your company early, this could be a note of contention with future financing.

The commitment of an advisor should be a minimum of two years.  It is valuable to set a term limit in reviewing board members, as you company is expected to grow and you need to be able to add new board members with different skills during later stages of your business.  Board members must also be committed to attend meetings.  A small business will typically meet with the entire board every 8-12 weeks.  If a board member misses more than two meetings a year, consider replacing the advisor.

Board members should not be family members, employees, contractors or service providers you pay for other functions in your business. It creates conflict of interests. Though a board of advisors are not employees, you should treat your advisors as accountable members of your C-suite. Set expectations, ask for help and use your board to help you achieve your goals.  If you simply assemble your Board and provide an update report on the business, you are wasting valuable resources and time.

Board of Advisors are trusted members of your inner circle. You can share with them confidential information and discuss highly sensitive matters that are not open for discussion with anyone else in your company. Your board should consist of credible experts that will provide insights you can not gain from any other resource. They should open doors, help you gain new customers or strategic partners and provide actionable ideas to help you achieve success. If you want to grow, create a Board of Advisors.

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.” – Stanley Kubrick

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can your afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority.

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” – Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Additional read:  Nothing in Business is Free 

Patience is a Vice and Virtue in Business

iStock_000017171991XSmallPatience is virtuous when it empowers you to use good judgement. Patience is a vice when it is used as an excuse or method of procrastination.

Patience has a role in every aspect of business. Patience can be a virtue when leaders need time to evaluate and research the benefits and risks associated with critical business decisions. Patience can also be a vice when it hinders progress or is used by leaders to stall or delay difficult decisions.

In business, leaders gain respect when patience is used as a sensible guide. It can help define practical goals and set realistic expectations on performance. Patience is valuable in strategic planning, negotiations and critical thinking exercises that have significant impact on the future of a business. Patience also defines a business reality and sets a tone of perseverance.

Leaders can immediately lose respect if they show little or no patience. Rushing to judgement can sabotage activities or blur facts. Charging forward on key decisions regardless of the cost or potential dangers, can result in missed opportunities and less-than desirable outcomes.  Leaders that employ too much patience may be deemed as lacking confidence in their own decisions or lacking confidence in others.  It can spark insecurities and even instability in the business. No patience creates a perception of erratic and unstable leadership.

Patience needs balance. When patience is part of the decision-making process, be certain that there is substantiated purpose. For example, use patience in planning when you need to acquire experience, research facts, test an outcome or survey others for input. Patience used to delay a decision because of a lack of experience or knowledge can create a false roadblock. Set a timeline. Using patience to gather feedback is a good use of the virtue.  Patience becomes a vice when it drives you to continually seek consensus on all decisions.

Patience as a virtue gives you capacity to endure waiting. Patience as a vice is not setting a deadline, allowing difficult decisions or unexpected outcomes to linger and potentially harm the business. Patience, used correctly, is part of your business ethics. It helps in governance.

Patience gives you the fortitude to make decisions. The right amount of patience enables leaders to use levelheadedness and detach from emotions in the decision and use logic and facts. Patience is a vice when it is used so frequently that it creates an emotional detachment to any decisions or prevents you from personally engaging or taking responsibility for your decisions and commitments.

Patience in business needs to be modulated. It is a guide, a compass. It is never absolute. There are times you have to make immediate decisions. There are many times you need to trust your gut, your instincts, you inner voice and just go. True leaders have the courage to accept associated risk with making a immediate decisions, as well as knowing when it is important to deploy patience at the right time to get the best results.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is Your Business IQ?

Fresh ideas, concept wordsThe question is not related to your personal or business intelligence, it is your business Innovation Quotient (IQ).  Your business IQ is connected to how you manage change and performance improvements in all facets of your organization, from operations to product. The origin of the word innovate goes as far back as the 16th century. It is simply introducing something new or different.

There are some companies that are perceived to “own” innovation and are frequently on lists of the most innovative companies. Expected and recognized mainstream mega brand companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Nike, Target, Coca-Cola recently topped Fast Company’s 2013 Most Innovative list, along with newer innovators like Pinterest, Sodastream, Tesla, and Yelp. They all have visible innovations and a high “product” IQ.  We come to expect they are doing something new and different all the time.  What we do not see is how these businesses innovative internally. How they get on these lists takes more than smart, cool products. We don’t know how often they change employee policies, management teams, adopt new software programs or retire practices that no longer get results – unless you are Melissa Mayer of Yahoo!

What is your business IQ?  How often are you “innovating” the 4 P’s: product, people, processes and policies?  If you were to rate how innovative your company is today, on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the most innovative, where do you rank?  If you are never changing, you probably have a low business IQ.  If you are always changing, your business IQ should be close to 100.  The most realistic place to be, without completely disrupting or killing your business, is to aim for above 50.

If you are an innovative trailblazer with a high IQ, congratulations and press on!  It is difficult to stay on the forefront and constantly introduce “new” into a business. Trailblazers make change and as a result, often make money. They innovate, pivot and innovate again. Maverick companies with high business IQ are in a continuous cycle of innovation and change.

If your business is lacking in the innovation department, it may be time to set new company standards.  If you asked everyone on your executive team to provide you a recommendation of an old idea or way of doing something that needs to be retired, without measure of cost or risk to the business, what do you think would be on the list?  Perhaps it is time to find out.  Innovation begins by identification.  Where there is opportunity in your business to innovative, there is opportunity to improve.

Old or young, businesses need to always be monitoring their business IQ.  Innovation takes place within companies as well as in products and services.  Being an innovative company requires a constant and systematic evaluation of how the company will stay competitive and continue to grow or maintain sustainable profits.  The lack of innovation is a one-way ticket to performance doldrums.

Not all innovation is good and there are certainly small and big failures to note.  One point is certain, if your business is low on IQ, it is probably not maximizing the potential of products, people, processes or policies.  Start by asking the questions first. What needs to go? What is holding your business back?  Identify where you can improve your business IQ and then go — innovate!

If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter F. Drucker

Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Avoid Being Distracted by Shiny Pennies

iStock_000014402814_ExtraSmallA common challenge for business owners and executives is to avoid “tripping over shiny pennies.” What does that mean? It is the attraction and distraction of the newest, latest, greatest shiny object in our path.

We all seem to have a trained eye to spot the bright copper commodity at our feet, no matter where we are headed. The shine is overwhelming. We stop. We pick it up. We put it in our pocket. Then we declare our latest “find” to be lucky. A sign of great fortunes to come.

Shiny pennies reflect a fiery glow that is hard to avoid. Old pennies lack the shine and sleekness that keep our attention. They seem drab. They are tried and have traveled far, gathering dirt and grime along the way. They often find homes in jars, drawers and bottles. New pennies have power. We have willed the new penny with charm, a source of inspiration, as we traverse along the pathway of possibilities.

The penny is representative of all the ideas and opportunities that land in front of us, one right after the other. Every time we stop to evaluate a new idea, we are taking our attention away from our current plan of action.

Navigating through the countless opportunities, or shiny pennies, requires determined focus and unbridled commitment to a planned strategy.

Unfortunately, in business the sparkling object we stop and pick up is often worth exactly the minted value – ONE CENT. Consuming ourselves by the possibilities of what the perceived lucky penny might bring can actually cost a business many pennies, if not fortunes.

New is not to be avoided. New keeps us innovating and testing. The overwhelming desire to continually focus on the new penny in our pocket, can be a big distraction from working on the current business plan. Shiny pennies have a time and place. Some will need proper evaluation and careful consideration. If you are feeling consumed by all the shiny pennies, set a time in your day or week to focus on these new ideas.  Plan for “new” within your plan. Budget the costs associated to testing the new ideas.

Apply the “penny test” in our course of evaluation.  What is the real cost associated to adding this penny to the jar of other shiny pennies?  Will you spend more in product development, sales and marketing?  How will it change your business model? Is there an impact in supply chain and distribution?  How will customer’s respond?  Every new penny that you stop to pick up needs thorough testing and vetting, with an effective cost-benefit analysis. The amount of work to evaluate the penny is expensive, so not every penny is worthy of much attention.

Be cautious of the allure of the sleek and sparkly new. After all, it is just one cent – shiny or not.  If you are always tripping over pennies, you might just fail to see the dollars falling from the sky.

“If had a penny for every strange look I’ve gotten from strangers on the street I’d have about 10 to 15 dollars, which is a lot when you’re dealing with pennies.” – Andy Samberg 

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers

Racing to Close the Sale

iStock_000003423890MediumThe sales process provides a road map to follow when you are driving toward winning new business. The course begins with identifying a prospect and traverses through a series of events to the finish line. The intended destination on the map is the “close”. The place where you complete the sale, where you can declare you have won the race!

All sales people desire the race to be short from start to finish. Sales people hope to navigate around a few laps versus taking a long and winding road trip with many starts and stops. Experienced sales people have the endurance for the longer trek; where as, new sales people often lack patience and the will to stay seated for the extensive ride.

Most “starts” in the race never make it to the finish line. They breakdown somewhere in the process. The early racers may believe they are driving a qualified opportunity, yet fail to make the needs analysis turn or drive off the road at negotiation. By laws of averages and experience, more than 90% of opportunities that start will fail to get all the way to close. No matter the product or service, for every 10 qualified starts only one winner will result.  In other words, nine out of 10 deals will never make it to the close.

Winning or losing creates great anxiety in sales. The race to closing is arduous. Gripping the wheel, staying on course, focusing ahead requires concentration, skill and patience. The better drivers know they need to use their road map and not veer off course. The effort to get to the finish line can be months and even years with large deals. The pressure to close can drive sales people to make some simple driving mistakes.They take shortcuts to get to the finish line, avoiding key road signs that tell you whether you are approaching the finish or have miles and miles to go. Worst, they give up and quit the race.

One of the best indications for assessing how close you are to the finish line is to ask for agreement at every turn. “Are we there yet?”  It is true, the repetitive process of asking “are we there” can get annoying for some; however, you need to identify your road markers.  You need to know how close you are to the end of the race. The only way to know is to ask if you and your prospect are in agreement. You don’t want to end up at the finish line and find out your paying passenger jumped out long ago.

Every turn you make in the sales process requires a pit stop. Stop. Check to make sure the prospect is still engaged, agreeing to the journey and willing to go the distance.  If you fail to engage at the check points, you will mostly run out of gas and never see the checkered flag. You successfully end the race when you cross the finish line with your new customer seated next to you and you both are headed to the winners circle.

“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Wishing, Wanting and Hoping Does Not Work in Business

What works in business is “doing”. Executing the plan requires effort. It is the muscle, the labor and the heavy lifting that gets the job done.

If you are wishing a prospect calls you to buy something, the wait is long. If you are wanting people to respond to your awesome tweet, the anticipation is agonizing. If you are hoping a great venture capitalist recognizes your incredible invention, your desires can go unfulfilled.

The message is not harsh or meant to burst your bubble. It is a direct call to action. Your wish, want and hope strategy needs reconsideration. It is not time to give up. It is time to change your strategy. Winners get rewarded for hard work. They do what others won’t do and that is how they win.

The sales person that makes the most calls, nurtures the most relationships and asks for the close multiple times, makes the sale. The marketing person that gets their message out through multiple channels using frequency and smart engagement tactics sees return on their marketing investment. Business leaders who knock on many doors to showcase their compelling business models that are producing multiple returns with predictable growth get the call backs from the investor community. Those that are putting their nose to the grindstone are realizing the rewards. The rewards of hard work.

Ambition needs to be equally measured by production. In a recent board meeting, the discussion soon centered on what we want to accomplish in the next five years. A boisterous board member remarked that the question was not relevant. The room became silent. Finally, someone asked him why would we not want to focus on our goals and define our strategy. He starkly replied, “You don’t have anyone to do the work.”

Every business needs leadership, directing activities and measuring accomplishments. Great leaders inspire others to believe they will be winners and thus hard work will pay off. The fact remains that without the “doers”, leaders are really a figure head. A strategy without anyone executing the tactics is a failed strategy. Labor is what drives businesses forward. Those that execute in the business are those that bring in the revenue, open new markets, and create innovative products.

The amount of time defining the mission, vision and strategy of your business needs to be matched exponentially by the hours of “doing”. Plans without the work tethered to tactics are simply great ideas. Goals are achieved through sweat. A vision is actualized through production.

Wishing, wanting and hoping are great for daydreaming. Put your dreams into action. The performance of you, your business and your teams are visible in hard evidence. Facts. Results. Failures. Accomplishments.

As you analyze the hours in your day spent on strategy and planning; multiple that amount of time by 10 and that is the minimum time you need to apply to working in your business. In other words, every hour of strategy and planning needs to be matched by 10 hours of laborious action. Match your planning time with a report card of hours worked on your to do list. The outcomes are a result of the effort. Measure your business success by the achievements, the outcomes, the results.

Wishing, wanting and hoping in business creates a crisis in confidence. Wishing is obscure. Wanting is desirous. Hoping is improbable. Doing is concrete. Working is absolute. A commitment in confidence is defined by action. Execution moves a business forward. Nike reminds us all the time to “Just Do It”. The simple motto is one that all businesses and leaders need to follow. Do it. Get it done. Then start again and just keep doing!

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” – Thomas A. Edison

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Every Business Should Do a Harlem Shake Video

mqdefaultThe latest Internet phenomenon takes place in 30 second flashes. In a short two week span, tens of thousands of videos have been uploaded to YouTube and some garnering millions of views. Each video has it’s own unique interpretation of the same electronic dance mix song by Baauer.

There are versions underwater, on ski slopes, in locker rooms and on office desktops. The concept is the same for all. One person dances while others go about their normal business. The person usually wears a mask or some sort of limited disguise.The beat picks up, the video cuts and then entire group erupts into a spontaneous, non-choreographed breakout of “dance” in a variety of costumes. Move over Psy, Gangnam Style is out.  Now, we are crazed by the Harlem Shake.

College baseball teamscelebrities and high school clubs have Harlem Shake videos. Start-ups and tech companies have created their version of the Harlem Shake. Gymsmega brands and skateboard makers have a video. College campuses are doing the shake. Media companiesthe military and even the newsroom have created their own version. From all around the world, the Harlem Shake is shaking it up!

There are no skills required, just one song, a video camera, and a costume. It is self-evident dance skills are NOT a prerequisite. In fact, the less skills the better. Even Beanie Babies are making a comeback with their Harlem Shake.

ku harlemWho knows how long the Harlem Shake madness will continue.  It may be short lived and over before the real March Madness begins or it may go on for a long time.  Regardless, it is time to jump on the bandwagon. Avoid the critics, naysayer and those that don’t get it.  They won’t and it doesn’t matter. The benefits of making the video outweigh those that will forever be refusing to play along. We need to lighten up, have some fun and laugh! It’s time. It’s time to Harlem Shake.

Here are a few of the reasons why you should convince your friends, colleagues or teammates to make a 30 second video:

1.  Creativity – We all have an inner desire to use our creative skills and what better way to express yourself then dressing up and dancing with your friends at work.  Let the creative juices flow. We need a way to express ourselves and sometimes casual Friday’s aren’t enough. Let the creative side of your business take center stage and watch in amusement at all the pent up imagination in your office.

2.  Team Building – A company that dances together, stays together. There is a reason to get everyone out of their chair for 30 seconds of craziness.  It’s uplifting and rewarding to know you can work hard and play hard together. Show your spontaneity. We are all under a lot of stress to deliver, on time or ahead of schedule. What better way to be all in “it” together!

3.  Cooperation – Everyone has a role in the video.There are no superstars. Whether you put a banana peel on your head or give heart-to-heart resuscitation to a stuffed dinosaur, there is a place for you in the breakout version. All you have to do is show up and shake.  When is the last time you could get an entire group to center on a single initiative?  Cooperation is underrated.  It might spill over into other projects or initiatives.

4.  Culture – Who knew your workmates were so much fun?  Who knew that all your workmates had a costume waiting to be worn?  One is not to question the attire, simply let the values you post on your website standout in a 30 second commercial of your diversity in action. Show why you are a best place to work.

5.  Fun  All business, all the time is so 80s.  Let it go. We want to laugh with each other, we want to shed tears of joy, we want to get up and dance! If we enjoy what we do, we will do better. Give everyone the gift of having fun together. Recruiting might be a little easier when employees are talking about how much they love their job.

6. Promotion – Maybe, just maybe you create a video and it gets millions of views. Out of curiosity, a few of the million viewers then go to your website to find out more about the cool, fun people in the video. A little PR never hurts any business. Give us a positive reason to talk about you.

It is time to shake it up! Happiness is contagious. Get the crew together, make a video and add to our entertainment. We are searching out the videos. Do it before the craze is over and we are on to the next. We are laughing and we love watching you have make fun together.  It says a lot about your business.

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Over the Hill or Through the Woods

iStock_000021617437_ExtraSmallThe beginning of every year is an opportunity to set your direction and communicate your path forward. It gives you the chance to review and define your goals, personally and professionally. For everyone else, it gives them the ability to know how to best support and follow the leader. Does everyone that can impacts your business know your 2013 plan?

The lack of a defined plan for the year, leaves everyone taking their “own” best path forward. In the end, this may not produce or represent the organization’s goals or objectives. People will be moving, activities will be happening, yet you may be headed to exactly where you did not “plan” to go. It is up to you to stop the wandering effect of your business and your followers. Set the direction. Communicate your exact plan. If you don’t have a plan, create one now — before it is too late.

If you have a plan and you have not shared it, this is the week to get it done! People and businesses need goals and plans. You can work endless amounts of time, expend great energy and spend a lot of money to end up in the wrong place. How did that happen? Usually it is because everyone is not working collectively on the same outcome. Everyone is heading in a direction, but it may not be the “right” direction.

As a leader, it is critical to everyone working with you that they understand your strategy and goals for the business. A plan provides the road map empowering you to define the activities and tasks. It opens the door to assigning responsibilities and setting accountability. More importantly, it gives you the capability of making a pivot or shifting your plans by creating a benchmark for how you will measure success along the path forward.

Working on a shared and communicated plan, gives business leaders a reason to stay in touch with employees, measure their progress and assess performance. People thrive on accomplishments and desire feedback. Knowing how they are contributing to the success of the business can only be measured by stated goals and objectives.

Get everyone working together. Options may be limited or options may be bountiful based on the path you choose to take the business. Communicate your choice. Will you be headed over the hill or through the woods. What will be in the basket full of goodies you will offer to your customers, vendors, employees and partners. How do they prepare to avoid risks? What will be awaiting when they arrive at the determined destination?

Your team is waiting for you to tell them the story. How it begins this year and how it will end. Provide regular updates and know that people will be looking for you to lead them in the direction you have shared.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.

Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

iStock_000014805390_ExtraSmallCall reluctance is experienced by all business professionals, no matter their role.  Executives returning messages from upset customers, accounting personnel calling on past due notices and technology team members shopping for service providers.  Imagine if your entire day’s success was measured by the number of calls you made to convince strangers to buy your goods and services.

No. Not right now. No, thanks. Not interested. Maybe. Not in our budget. Hang up. Send me information. Yes.  That is the typical day of a sales person who is building their pipeline, repeated over and over again.  And we wonder why it is hard to find and retain great sales people. There are not many of us who would put at the top of our career ambitions to be rejected several times a day.

Cold calling is rarely listed as a favorite work activity; however, for millions it is what pays the bills. Selling is fundamental to our economy. There is no business until something is sold. Embracing the fact we all need to make cold calls, how can we take the chill out of one of the most important activities in business?  Here are a few tips to prepare for a day of cold calling:

1.  Know your target market. Every buyer is unique; however, they will have similar demographics, sociographics and psychographics. Spend time understanding the common data characteristics, along with behaviors and motivators.  For example, if you are targeting a small business owner, know what drives them to change.  What fears do they face in making buying decisions? What would benefit them the most personally and professionally when they say yes?  The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to make a “warm call” into a known, targeted buyer.

2.  Feel the buyer’s pain. There is a natural tendency for inexperienced cold callers to talk about their reason for calling more than finding out why the buyer would benefit from their products or services.  Stop. Listen. If you are doing the most of the talking, you are losing.  You will never hear the buying signals when you are spewing facts, features, and generic benefits.  The best technique is to understand and relate to your buyer so they have confidence you are doing what is best for them, not you.

3.  Quantity matters. It is far easier to deal with rejection if you can get a “win” during your calling spree.  Plan with enough time in a single day to make calls in blocks of several hours. One, right after the other. Hang up, dial the next.  If you stagger your calls throughout the day or over longer periods, you are simply prolonging the pain. Dial until you get to yes and then dial more. Target how many yes calls you need in a day to hit your weekly and monthly goal.

4.  Needs analysis pays off.  Do your research on your buyer. You will be expected to speak to their individual business needs. There is no excuse to cold call blindly. “Google them”. It takes seconds now to find valuable data online about buyers.  You have access to profiles in LinkedIn, you have company websites with executive profiles, products and company information, public reports and news. Do your homework.

5.  Call with intent. What is your goal in cold calling?  What qualifies as a “yes”?  As with any business function, have a goal and objective with every call. The only way to get to the yes is to ask – ask for the sale. Get agreement along the way of your presentation and make sure you are aligned in your mutual objectives. You are solving a problem for the buyer. Countless deals are lost because people think making the call is the goal. That is not the win. The win is getting the deal.  Ask for their business.  It only counts when they say yes. When they say no, ask again.

A sales person has to remain calm in the chaos of measurable rejection. They have to keep their eye on the “prize”.  One more call to a yes.  One more opportunity to use their real skills and talents of negotiation and the power of persuasion to fulfill a need.

Respect and reward those that you depend on to make the calls to grow your business.  If you are the cold caller, prepare to win.  Know your target, be diligent in your process and never forget to ask.  It is the glimpse of hope, the possibility of acceptance and the incredible satisfaction of closing a deal that keeps a cold caller motivated. Commissions aside, most sales people will say they get the greatest reward from winning.  Winning when a customer says yes!

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar


Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Additional Sales Related Posts by Artful Thinkers

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/prepare-to-hire-a-sales-person

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/questions-sales-candidates-ask-that-should-stop-the-interview

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/a-bad-sales-hire-can-crush-a-small-business

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/5-essential-topics-for-a-winning-sales-proposal

 

 

Think with Yes in Mind

iStock_000020490072_ExtraSmallOne of the biggest challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs face is to keep an open mind to new ideas and other people’s suggestions. Employees, advisers and sales people all seem to have a new and improved way for growing, building, doing or fixing something.

Emails flood your inbox while proposals stack high on your desk. The company suggestion box stays filled with endless brainstorms.  You solve one problem and then there are dozens of better, faster, cheaper ways you could solve the next.  You can not ignore the influx.  Nor should you.

Great leaders thrive on contributions of others, no matter the format or context.  There is always the opportunity that one recommendation could save or make the company millions of dollars.  A customer satisfaction survey could help you enhance your product.  An employee recommendation could help you reduce cost on your next infrastructure project.  A shareholder could enlighten you about a rewarding strategic partner opportunity.

Staying in a “yes” state of mind requires great skill and discipline.  It requires you to be approachable, literally operating with an open door for easy access to anyone and everyone.  You have to be focused and an expert listener.  The presentation of a suggestion may be masked within a complaint or shared by someone that doesn’t regularly get an audience with the ultimate decision maker.  You have to be able to decipher the hidden meaning.  You have to be thinking yes this idea or information could make a difference.

When approached, if you are thinking yes you are open to possibilities.  If you are thinking no, you are closed to suggestions and in the mindset of  impossibilities.  It is a dangerous position for the person at the helm to be closed to new approaches and ways of doing business.  You will soon be on an island as others are discouraged from sharing information or guidance.  You eliminate contact with those that can help you the most.

How do we get into thinking no all the time?  It requires time to be in a “yes” mindset.  Time is a precious commodity for leaders. We also have been trained to say no before we say yes.  In fact, good salespeople are trained to overcome your no.  Showing resistance when you are approached by a sales person is only a challenge.  Sales people learn early in their careers that it is often seven no’s to get to the yes.  Saying no only makes them more persistent.  It is far easier to say yes!  Yes, send me some information.  Yes, tell me why you would recommend we adopt this idea.

Always thinking yes before no does not mean that you implement every suggestion.  In fact, with being so open and approachable, it will be easier to discern what should be put on the list of possibilities.

Never limit what you can accomplish by thinking no before you think yes.  Maybe, just maybe, it will change how you and your business accomplishes all your goals and objectives in the coming year.

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Gandhi

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

2013 is Here to Stay

iStock_000019254561_ExtraSmallAnother New Year. We made it, despite the ominous predictions of the Mayans and challenges that seemed insurmountable. We have a whole year to put four new numbers at the end of every month and day — 2013 is here to stay.

As the hours tick away and we realize there is no turning back to a year gone by, we may spend time reflecting on the past for all the greatness or demands that became part of our personal history.  How much time should we reflect on what was and what might of been?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others as we leap ahead into the first day of a new year. Though the date is only a marker in time, it brings significance to recall where we have been and where we want to go.  We are conditioned to set goals, broadcast resolutions, make commitments.  We are all lined up in business to start our annual sprint toward revenue targets, profits and sales quotas.  Departments and executives lay out the vision and business plan. We stand and cheer as we round the corner and “pass go” to do it all again. We give ourselves and others another year to achieve great success.

Yet it can be hard to forget some of our nagging challenges and failures of the past 365 days. The reflection of what we did not accomplish can cloud our view of what lies ahead. Obsessive reflection deters progress. Could have, would have, should have really needs to be can, will and shall in the coming year.

We are all moving forward, together!  The earth is rotating and time is passing.  We can not stop our momentum. Some may want to slow the inevitable; however, there is not a time machine to take us back.  If we continually reflect on the better days of the past, we will miss the turns we need to take in the future.  We will be left behind.  It happens to very successful businesses and leaders as they get mired in their own greatness and fail to see what lies ahead.

We must focus on what can get done, what we will accomplish in the New Year. Historical performance gives guidelines of the best path forward.  At every fork, we need to turn to previous decisions and analyze how well we executed on each task or goal to determine the reality of which turn we take in the future. We don’t drive always looking in the rear view mirror. Watching what is behind, does not allow us to focus on what’s ahead — in life or in business.

Memories serve great purpose. Predicting the future requires history.  It is important to use past performance, decisions, data, research to better predict future outcomes.  It does not mean we should get buried in our past or mesmerized by our own reflection so that we fail to see the path forward.

We should all take time to reflect – briefly.  Use our past to build our map to the future. Know our goals.  It’s time to move ahead. The 2012 bus is leaving the station. The calendar tells us so.

As we move forward into 2013 with celebratory optimism, it is up to everyone to make choices that make us better and more prosperous.  Hope burns eternal. So, clink that glass half full and let the confetti fly! One thing is absolute, 2013 is here to stay.

Happy New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Give Your Best Gift

There is one gift that you can give that is far better than any other, it is the gift of you. Your time. Your ideas. Your wisdom. Your intellect. Your generosity. Your kindness. These are all unique gifts that only you can give to others. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” ―Steve Prefontaine

We all know there is no greater reward in life than giving. Giving showcases our sense of civility and humanity married in the richness of culture and values. Giving is a choice. We are collectively living in a world of complexity, tangled by individual adversity and challenges. When we give ourself to solving problems, sharing responsiblity and accountability of the burdens, we have the opportunity to do better. We must do better. We can accept nothing less.. The gift of you, is an opportunity to do better. “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

You have to let a sense of self go when you give the gift of you. It takes your limited time that is often occupied by so many other important to dos. It requires you to prioritize values of what really matters. The gift of you demonstrates your willingness to put all other distractions and demands for your attention behind those that are are going to receive your most precious gift – you. “Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself.” ― Walt Whitman

There are no material possessions that are within the same measure of the gift of you. You are priceless. Giving the gift of you is wrapped in love and care. “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Theresa

The very best gift in business you can give is yourself. Your time has the great value. There are several ways that you can gift you. You can gift your experience, gift your connections and gift your advice to help others achieve their goals. All require you to take the time to be present in your offering and focused in crafting how to provide meaningful experience, connections and advice. “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill

In order to fully actualize giving you, expect nothing in return. Giving you should be void of temptations to think of what’s in it for me. There is nothing to capitalize, nothing to measure. The gift of you is simply a sacrifice that has exponential returns in knowing you did something selfless for another. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

During this holiday season, the gift I give to all of you is sharing this blog. It is a little bit of me. My ideas. My thoughts. My experience. My advice. I give this gift out of love and passion to help others. “Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ― Brian Tracy

Happy Holidays to You and Wishing You a Prosperous New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Best Gift to Any Business is a Referral

Are you looking for the perfect gift to give your customers or clients this holiday season?  There is one gift that has far greater lasting value beyond a spoken word of thanks, a sparkly holiday card or overflowing basket of nuts and baked goods.  It is the ultimate gift — the gift of a referral.

When you tell a client or company that you believe in what they offer, so much so you are willing to tell others, you are bestowing a very special tribute. Beyond the confirmation, providing an unsolicited referral requires thought and work. It is a bit like the effort of making a homemade holiday gift versus buying all your gifts online. You have to think carefully about the need and fit between the referral and referee. You are attaching the value of your name as an endorsement to the product or service.  You will forever be the link between the buyer and seller. Your gift will often be appreciated more because of the effort you put into the “making” of the gift.

Another reason for giving a referral as your holiday gift this year is the financial value. Customer referrals are instrumental for business growth.  In fact, the value of a referral can even be more than a single purchase, especially if the client offerings are complex or dependent on developing long-term relationships with valuable prospects. Your gift can shave months off of the sales cycle.  A referral can reduce the cost of sales and customer acquisition costs. You could be gifting a customer and potentially a profitable customer with significant real lifetime customer value (LCV).

Your word matters and your actions speak louder than your words.  Everyone is grateful for a ringing testimonial.  It serves great purpose to have your endorsement out into the marketplace to attract buyers for your clients and show your support.  The actual gift of a referral is going beyond championing your like and approval.  It is an affirmation that you believe both sides of the transaction will benefit. You are providing a seal of approval for an engagement between the buyer and the seller.

Yes, we all want customer recommendations on LinkedIn, Yelp and on our Facebook and Google+ pages. It is good business practice to endorse your customers and clients when they buy your services.  This will encourage them to do the same for your business.  Word of mouth and online reviews are proven to work.  Market studies show buying decisions are impacted by referrals, as noted in HubSpot’s example of the impact of social media referrals: 71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [Infographic]. These endorsements are reviews of our work. They are critical to marketing today.

Knowing the value of a review and recommendation, the referral puts financial value to your words.  As you put together your shopping list this holiday season, think about the best gift for your customers.  A gift that only you can provide by making a meaningful connection.  A word of gratitude followed by an invitation to do well.  A contact that can lead to revenue. Give the ultimate gift to those that pay you. Give back by giving them a customer!

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Letting Go of Old School Business

We are working in an agile, lean, bootstrapping world.  We are delivering big data globally, in nanoseconds.  We manage and run businesses 24/7 with on demand expectations from customers, employees and vendors.

Are you operating your business in modern times or like it is the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s or even the last decade? Your established ways of doing business may be holding you back. You may be out of touch with what can move your business forward now. It is time to let the “old school” business practices go and embrace progress.

Aged leadership techniques for running businesses that worked 20 and 30 years ago are great for television dramas, but not for motivating others to help you create a thriving organization.  Managing from top down with authority and control is counter productive to collaboration and innovation.  Dictatorial bosses are not respected today.  Confrontation and intimidation were once seen as ways to “control the population” of workers.  Today, it is misguided and creates resentment, all barriers to inspiring others to come together to solve problems and flourish in the workplace. Is your leadership style up-to-date?

Work environments that are open develop greater trust and equality in mission.  The millennial workforce is community driven, with a sense that you do well by doing good.  Parents and institutions work hard to instill the values of sharing. It is expected to carry over to the workplace.  Openness and freedom of expression are as important as basic rewards and even compensation.  Younger generations will work hard, but old carrot and stick approaches are less appealing than basic respect and the feelings they experience by doing good work.

Retro is cool for clothing and design. It doesn’t appeal to where people want to spend a good portion of their day. Are you keeping up with the times?  Are the visual clues in your office showing you are fresh with new ideas or stuck in generations past? Is your desk cluttered with paper files, stacks of business cards or even shelves loaded with management and leadership books that were promoted two decades ago?

Here are some clues that you may be stuck in your old school business ways.

Micro-management feels good.  No one wants to be controlled by the overlord.  If you are running the numbers every morning, watching arrival times and wondering how to squeeze out another ounce of productivity, it is time to refocus your energy. Today, results and outcomes move businesses ahead of their competition.  Align your team with organizational goals and expectations. Celebrate accomplishments.

Dress code policy is a regular meeting topic.  Ties and nylons are bygones as standard office attire. Loosen up! You want people to be comfortable when they are working hard.  Innovators want to collaborate with peers, not be addressed by the “suit” in the room. Do you represent yourself as an equal that inspires others or someone that dresses to impress?  If your employees are impressed, it is because you empower and motivate them.

You love your big executive suite.  Big offices represent old austerity days.  Everyone knows you earn the big bucks with your title. The expansive office gives the impression you are unreachable and untouchable.  It does not increase your cool factor. If you have spent a big budget on office decor, it shows your priority. How about an office ping pong table, an employee lounge or creative think tank room?  Big offices exclude you from working with your team.

If you have a time clock on the wall, you are truly old school.  There may be legal reasons you may need to track or “clock” hours; however, time clocks bolted on the wall give the impression you are still operating in the industrial world.  Computer software can be set up on any standing office computer or tablet and help you remove the visual of ancestral ways of tracking every second of work time.

Your technology budget for 2013 has a large line item for new desktop computers.  Laptops, tablets, smartphones are how productive people operate today.  Information available via online “secured” vaults and in the cloud storage provides convenience to vital documents and programs. Carry-on computing gives you freedom and accessibility to work from any where at any time.  Times are changing and desktops are definitely old school.

Are you still using out of office notes?  Throw the pink slips away. It’s not new, it is called voicemail. Use it. Return the calls left for you.  It reflects your follow-through and respect for others.  Better yet, encourage your team to find you via text and call you on your mobile device.  Make it easy to be in touch.

There may be financial, legal and security reasons that you can not leave all your old school ways of doing business behind.  Make sure that there really is a reason for holding on to the older ways you conduct business.  If the only reason you are using old school business techniques or tools is inability or lack of interest to change, you will be left behind. Your employees see it.  Your customers know it.  Your vendors and suppliers are pained by it.  It’s time to move into the new school of doing business.

Today is apps and accessibility, cooperation and alliances, nanoseconds and responsiveness.  Being a progressive in business creates more opportunities for growth, in people, profits and productivity.  Let the old go and go anew.  You might like the results.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. – Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Virtues of a Trusted Advisor

The role of a trusted advisor is honorable.  A business leader believes you can help them achieve their goals, overcome their challenges and drive new opportunities.  Your advice is so valuable to the business, they choose to invest valuable resources, including time and money, for your guidance, products and services. They trust you can make a difference.

In the position of power, an advisor must demonstrate characteristics of greatness.  An advisor must garner the trust needed to challenge, collaborate and guide leaders in personal and professional ways.  The considerable distinction of being a trusted advisor must be representative of virtues that such power bestows.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founders of the United States, listed his 13 virtues in a notebook. He referenced the virtues to measure how he lived each day. The virtues included temperance, silence, order, justice and humility.  He developed the list of virtues when he was 20 years old and used it in some form, according to his autobiography, for the rest of his long life.

Though there are hundreds of virtuous characteristics, there are a few common virtues practiced by many high quality trusted advisors.  What would you include on your list of virtues to guide you in the expected role of a trusted advisor?  Here are ten virtues that top my list:

Ten Trusted Advisor Virtues

  1. Diligent – Be a good steward. Spend other’s resources with care and great due diligence to maximize a positive impact. Value other’s money as if it is your own.
  2. Integrity – Be honest and ethical in your role as a confidant.
  3. Silence – Listen to learn.  Advising others requires you to listen and learn before you conclude and guide.
  4. Courage – Challenge ideas, policies, programs and standards with candor, evidence and experience.  You need not be right, you need to state your beliefs with conviction.  It is your role.
  5. Credible – Prove you are worthy of trust.  Believe in your ideas and recommendations. Convey your belief with proof.
  6. Share – Take part in the business.  Be a partner. Contribute by sharing ideas and making valuable connections.
  7. Reliable – Be present in real time.  Demonstrate your loyalty by being available to help when help is needed.  Be on time. Deliver on time.
  8. Logical – Solve problems with logic.  Business decisions can be emotional.  Provide the logical pros and cons to help others make sound decisions.
  9. Wisdom – Use your knowledge and judgement to be resourceful.  Experience has value.  Speak and advise on what you know and when you don’t know, find other resources that do know.
  10. Respect – Respect those you advise and respect your position of power.  The quality of your work will be demonstrated by your ability to deliver, real and actionable advice. Earn respect by doing.

Virtues are often referred to as ethics.  Virtues are your moral compass, how you conduct yourself. As a trusted advisor, you have the responsibility to demonstrate the value of your advice. Trust is earned. It is not to be taken for granted. Your word, your actions, your work, your products, your services, all must represent the values you profess.

If you are so bold to declare your personal and professional virtues, take the time to measure the impact of your chosen words.  Do your virtues help you to better help those paying for your guidance?  Deliver what you say you will deliver. Be virtuous and then you will be trusted. A Trusted Advisor.

So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.” – Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

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Entrepreneurial Lessons from Your First Job

We have all had one. A first job. Someone looked you in the eye and said, “You are hired!” The decision confirms they trusted you to represent their business. They were willing to invest in you, train you, teach you how to earn a paycheck.

Your confidence swells with the first yes. Your stride is more brisk, your smile broadens. You did it! You are accepted, wanted and needed. Someone recognizes you for being a contributor. Then, the apprehension begins. What if they don’t like me? What happens if I make a mistake? Can I do this job? The overwhelming reality of being responsible of earning a wage is measured by the sudden onset of nervous excitement.

Many of the emotions and fears of starting your first job are similar to starting your first business. Entrepreneurs have to balance the adrenaline associated with being in complete control with the reality that businesses fail. Lingering in the bravado are facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that nearly a third of businesses fail within the first two years. Reverting to your confidence that says “just do it” because you are different and better, you focus on the statistical favor that you do have a 66% chance you will make it.

The first time you do anything is valuable experience. Recalling what you learned at your first job is an excellent way to apply past experience to a new first – starting your own business. Here are some tips to take from your first job that are nuggets of wisdom to apply to your startup venture:

1.  Embrace the Fear of Failing – You have an option to be paralyzed in fear or embrace the opportunity that if you try, you may succeed.  We all know examples of the person who tried over and over again, failing countless times before they finally made it!  They never quit. Using the knowledge of each failure, big or small, prepare yourself for the possibility of next time.

2.  Take Pride in Your Work – Others are counting on you to help them.  Any business is defined by satisfying a need.  If they need you, take satisfaction in your ability to help.  In the early stage of a new business, people will flock to those that are confident in what they deliver.  Uncertainty creates worrisome customers, or even worse, potential customers who never buy.

3.  Always Be Learning – You are glowing green at your first job.  You are a blank slate.  Your training is the groundwork for how you will perform. Soaking up expertise from those that proceeded you is smart business.  What you don’t know today, can propel your business to the next level. Find expertise.  Be a knowledge consumer.

4.  Businesses Reward Hard Work – As you master the skills necessary to do your first job and do it well, you soon learn that businesses reward performance.  Promotions and raises are given to those that work hard and do more than their peers.  Your customers will reward you for your hard work.  Their loyalty is associated to your ability to outperform your competition.

5.  Listening Skills are Important – Listening to your customers in your first job and in your first business is elementary.  Your customer is paramount to delivering products and services that meet the customer’s needs.  Failing to listen increases your odds of an unhappy customer.  Unhappy customers tell others of their experience.  Listening improves potential for high customer satisfaction.

6.  Time Management is Critical – There are no rewards for showing up late or missing work.  One of the most important skills acquired in the first job is how to manage your time.  You soon learn there are no acceptable excuses.  Juggling priorities becomes primary to your success.  Owning a business depends on the genius of multitasking.  You will work harder and that means you have to work smarter to get the job done.

7.  Handling Money Builds Trust – When you take money for any product or service, you are now accepting the currency of trust.  You are expected to provide equal or greater value in the exchange of cash for goods.  Exceeding expectations builds credibility.  Manage others money with the same respect you demand from those that manage yours.

The knowledge acquired from a first job is fundamental to a startup. How you apply that knowledge and skill will often result in similar or better experience as an entrepreneur. The mistakes are lessons of how to do something different. The successes are foundations to build upon.

Challenge yourself to reflect on your first job. What was the best lesson learned on your first job? Can you instill this in your values, culture and standards as a business owner today?

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Vision Statements are Worthless without Disciplined Focus

Entrepreneurs can spend countless hours crafting their vision and mission statements.  It is often assigned to every leader as a required task in strategic planning.  Business investors and advisors will ask you, what is your vision?  Imagine answering, “I don’t know!”

Do you have a vision? A mission? Business values?  Often guilt rises in those that have not defined their vision when questioned by those that “know”.  Thus the ritual begins.  The business owner starts to define the grand vision: What do I want to be?  What is our ideal universe?  What is our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) as a company? What motivates us?

Tah-Dah!  The task is complete. Yes, you have a company vision.  Check the box.  Your purpose for existence as a business, which is now articulated in a small paragraph, makes it’s debut on websites, in business plans and sales presentations and supported in company marketing communications.  What is the value of this exercise?  Can you translate it to revenue? There are businesses that have you memorize the vision. Vision testing. They are driven by the belief that if everyone is united by a common vision, they will achieve more.

Granted, there is no argument that you need a strategy to win.  If your vision consists of words to satisfy the strategic planning process, your vision is worthless. A vision must be supported by disciplined focus to accomplish your business goals. It is what differentiates the good from great.  Why?  It is the ability to look beyond the visionary clouds and execute on your strategy.  Disciplined focus delivers results.

Vision is unlimited.  Vision gives you big picture, inspiration and motivation.  Focus influences your capability to execute on what is most important.  Real power to deliver on a vision comes when you narrow your focus, allowing you to concentrate and build confidence. Disciplined focus enables you to positively face challenges and create sustainability in your business.  It is the foundation for growth. “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” — Bill Gates

Have you ever watched a 3 year-old in a grocery store walking along side their adult companion.  They seem to lack much interest in the whole shopping experience.  Suddenly, they set their sights on what is intentionally positioned at their eye-level to grab their attention. They make their escape with remarkable strength.  Bolting in a straight beeline, with determination, to the prize!  They have disciplined focus on the outcome.  They grab and go!  Vision. Focus. Results.

If you have a vision or are thinking you need to craft a vision statement, take a few minutes to define the expected outcomes from your declaration.  How does the vision help you focus on what is most important for your business?  How do you use your vision as motivation?  How will the vision help employees be better in their roles?  How will the vision drive the business forward?  Once you know the desired results, you can apply the disciplined focus to execute your strategy and accomplish your business goals.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” — Brian Tracy

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Spirit or Stress

High energy and optimism drive entrepreneurs to overcome the daily challenges of starting and running a business.  It is drawn from the spirit of achievement.  A belief in winning.  The achiever reflects on the vision supplanted in the back of their mind that reminds them they can do it.  Entrepreneurial spirit motivates. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial stress can be harmful.

Often times I see business owners who fight gallantly and passionately to get their businesses off the ground. Overcoming every obstacle with stamina and vigor.  Then the really hard work begins, as if the launch wasn’t difficult enough.  Selling. Operating. Scaling. Funding. HR, PR and avoiding the ER.

Days begin at 5AM and end around midnight. Sleep is sacrificed in place of getting more done.  Family and friends watch on the sidelines as the entrepreneur climbs to the top.  They are the cheerleaders, sounding boards and allies.  They see the competitiveness to win, so they encourage you more.  You’ve got spirit! You can do it, yes you can!

Our colleagues and advisors rarely say stop or slow down.  Why?  They don’t want to crush the dream.  They want to keep the spirit alive.  Businesses are built with emotions of positive thinking, ambition and heart thumping enthusiasm. They are also built with blood, sweat and tears.  We chant faster, better, more.  We ignore slower, take a breath, and reminders to enjoy the journey.  We convince ourselves we work better under pressure and stress.

As we are conditioned more than ever to reach for the stars, who is telling you to chill out?  It seems counter intuitive to being an entrepreneur.  Is it?  Can you get more accomplished when you are relaxed and well rested?  There are countless studies that prove stress is bad for your health.  It increases heart disease, inflammation, chances of having a stroke, weight gain, and even increases odds of catching a cold.  Relaxation studies show we can counterbalance many of the health risks.  Yet, out of fear of failing, the entrepreneur presses on and tries to do more.

I am reminded of a wise mentor who once said, do you want your epitaph to read “I Worked the Hardest”. Know anyone that has health issues from living stress-free or being well rested and relaxed?  Know anyone with health issues from living in the hyper stress mode, working 18 hour days, not sleeping, and sacrificing all “me” time?

Take this advice from a self-subscribed workaholic, it may be time to relax!  Here are a few ideas on how to get back to the spirit and reduce the entrepreneurial stress.

1.  Remind yourself of the WHY.  Why are you building a business?  Why are you working so hard? Why are you driving yourself and probably your family crazy?  Write down your why and review it daily. If it is for your retirement, for your security, for your family or for your employees, they will all tell you they would rather have a bit more of the relaxed you than a bit more stress.

2.  Turn off the electronics.  We are more wired and connected today.  Checking emails first thing in the morning can create stress before you even get started.  Smartphones, laptops, computers, TVs, off!  Set a schedule for when you will be connected and give yourself the freedom to be off the grid.

3.  Say hello!  Reach out to past colleagues and mentors.  Get together in real time, face to face.  Perhaps they are in the same predicament of being overloaded and overworked and are looking for someone to help give them a reprieve.

4.  Read any good books lately?  No one can argue that reading is good for the mind and soul.  Take 20 minutes a day to refresh your mind.  Give yourself time to escape, explore and grow.

5.  Prioritize.  Do you have a list of priorities?  Take your list and categorize the A list, all which have to be done by a committed deadline.  Next is your B list, those items that are important but are less urgent.  Finally, your C list that captures those tasks that would be nice when completed; however, do not endanger your well-being or put the business at risk.

6.  Escape.  If your business can not survive without you for a weekend, a week or even two, you do not have a sustainable business.  How would an investor perceive your business if it can not operate without you.  In other words, the business is you. Do not believe you are helping your customers, your investors or employees by being the one that makes it all run.  It is bad for business and bad for you.  No one can sustain the pressure of being the sole enterprise.  Delegate and escape.  Force the business to run without you.

If you get to the end of the road and the sign blazes with bright lights that you made it, congratulations.  You did it.  Now, look back and ask was it worth it? Did you enjoy the journey?  If you are still on that journey, stop and breathe.  Relish in the spirit of being an entrepreneur.  Enjoy the growth in your business and your personal experience. Don’t miss out on life to get to the end.

There is no recovery from lost time or relationships.  Make sure it is really the entrepreneurial spirit that is motivating you, not the stress controlling you. Live Long. Be Happy. And Prosper.

Be Happy and Achieve More in Your Business

In a recent presentation by best selling author and NCAA Division I tennis champion, Roger Crawford, he asked the audience of business owners and executives, “Are you listening to your own head trash?” He explained that anxiety is focused on negative outcomes and it eliminates the possibilities.  Do you start your day thinking of the angst or promise of your business?

Several years ago, I was managing a small inside sales team for an entrepreneur with big dreams.  We were in the midst of creating the world’s largest, biggest, best company, EVER. We had a vision, a defined mission and we believed all was possible.

I hired a small group of spirited, eager professionals that were responsible for driving the majority of the company revenue.  Failure was not optional.  Every work day, they had to pick up the phone and convince businesses they needed our offering.  In fact, the expectation was they had to sell 5-10 businesses a day.  Many days were filled with rejection and disappointment. Despite the constant “no”, they persisted.  Dial more, ask again, always be closing, fax another brochure were our mantras.  The result, we took a small company and nearly doubled in size every year for five years.

Looking back, there is no doubt that persistence paid off.  We all knew that if we made enough calls, heard enough no’s, we would get to the yes.  Four people dialing for dollars soon turned to a couple dozen sales people and eventually two floors of people making outbound calls.  We had the formula.  We had a predictable model that scaled. Open a territory, launch a new product, buy more leads, add more sales people, increase price, and the business doubles again.  It was simple math. No anxiety, just possibilities. Followed by success.

There was only one real threat to our growing business — mindset.  We needed to hire believers.  As a business, we had the tools, the resources and the product. We needed people that believed in “yes”, despite all the “no” they might hear.  Our culture would not tolerate negativity. Our success was built on a foundation of positive attitudes. We could train and manage aptitude. Attitude was the difference between making our number or not.  Negativity was eradicated quickly to draw in more positive thinkers.  Only winners need apply.

Do you believe in your possibilities? Do you inspire winning? Perhaps the real inhibitor from achieving success in your business is mindset.  Happiness is proven to contribute to the top and bottom line.  Regardless the perceived “insurmountable” roadblocks of any small business, belief and persistence are your best allies as an organization.  Positiveness rolls down hill.  It is your primary responsibility as a leader to project happiness and the “can do” attitude.  Prospects respond to cheerful problem solvers.  Vendors like doing business with people that make them feel good.  Employees are more productive in happy workplaces.  Investors want to believe, in you!

In a 2012 released study, “Happiness as a motivator: positive affect predicts primary control striving for career and educational goals,” researchers Claudia M HaaseMichael J PoulinJutta Heckhausen noted in the report abstract, “…when individuals experience positive affect, they become more motivated to invest time and effort, and overcome obstacles when pursuing their goals, in part because they believe they have more control over attaining their goals.

How do you set up your day to experience a positive affect?  Do you have a happiness ritual that puts you in the frame of mind to win?  How do you encourage happiness and inspire your employees?  In the startup phase of the company mentioned above, I would begin by blasting a song on the boombox in our little office.  My favorite play, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry, be happy  In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy.” -Bobby McFerrin

When I cranked up the volume each morning, I might see a little sneer. We started at 7AM. In the end, it was this song and our collective attitude that launched many successful careers.  We mastered our own happiness.  We mastered our destiny. We mastered hearing no and converted it to a yes. Yes to success.

As a business owner, you will face rejection by investors, vendors, partners, and customers.  Prepare yourself and set your vision on the possibilities.  Remove the head trash. If you read, listen or surround yourself with negative information, it probably will not encourage you to go out and do more. Negativity creates anxiety. Turn it off. Walk away. Choose to believe your hype, not others.

How can you inspire others to take your business to the next level?  Focus on what you and your team can achieve.  Set goals. Share the vision. Dream big. No matter how many no’s you get, believe in yes!  And of course, Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

Inspired by the motivational Roger Crawford, the Delivering Happiness movement and all those believers at Mastering Computers.

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

A Little Civility Thank You

As we live, eat, work, grow and socialize together 24 hours a day, it does make sense we continue to reinforce the basic rules for how to treat one another respectfully.  Under no pretense is this meant to be preaching, it is simply a reminder of our times.  Thank you matters.  You are welcome is appreciated.  Please is polite. I understand does not mean you agree, it means you listened.

Civil nations have rules and expectations on how to interact through defined customs.  How we greet each other, open conversations and end our discourse are all ways to show our civility.  Agree to disagree, we can also always choose to end our interaction with respect.

Governing rules of how we are expected to interact with one another help us all live with some order.  We have attempted to assign rules of social behavior based on principles of etiquette. Read a good Emily Post article lately?

We have golden rules that are taught in almost every religion.  Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.  We have rules surrounding global conflicts, we have rules of order for meetings and legal proceedings, we have rules we follow in business and school.  We also have assumed rules for how we can politely and respectfully engage each other.  We have even gone so far as to teach these principles in schools, churches and other institutions.  Applying them is when it really counts!

Thank you. Please. You’re Welcome. Going beyond the rehearsed pleasantries, we also have defined ways of showing appreciation and gratitude. I understand. I appreciate your help. I am grateful. Very civil ways to engage with each other.

Recently, I was at a service counter and the person asked me, “How are you today?”  I replied, “Great! How are you?” There was no response.  Then he stopped and starred at me for a good 20 seconds.  He said, “No one ever asks me how I am doing, so I am a little shocked.”  He was a young teenager, probably working his first or second job.  He had been properly trained to say the words.  No one finished his lessons in civility, that polite expression that says I really cared about how you are doing today.  Why? Every person he had asked never cared to respectfully ask him how he was doing.

As we look to speed up how we interact in real-time, access information in nanoseconds and connect with each other around the world, maybe we need to have some basic reviews of 21st century civility.  Thank you. You’re Welcome. Please. Good-Bye. Hello.  It is universal.  How are you? Can I help you? I appreciate your understanding. They all seem to have use around the world. Maybe if we continue to focus on what we all know is respectful we can accomplish more — together.

As our society enters into greater opportunities to engage with each other, look for more examples of respectful human interaction. Share these examples. Teach others. Respond to the question, how are you doing today.  Rudeness is ugly. We accomplish nothing when we are less than civil.  We don’t teach anyone.  We seem to not care.  Being right, only matters to you.  Being responsive, appreciative and polite matters to everyone.  If we start with respect, maybe we can have a good social relationship with everyone.  It’s worth a try.

Thanks for listening.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Competing is Winning the Gold

Pictures: Stuart Ruckman - The Australian

There will be a total of 302 gold medals awarded at The Games of the XXX Olympiad.  There are more than 10,500 athletes competing from 200 nations and territories.  Every four years we create an engaged global audience that together watches, cheers and celebrates the world’s best compete for gold.  Humans love competition.

The definition of compete is to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective as in position, profit, or a prize (Merriam-Webster).  When we join forces to compete, we become one.  Competitors seeking a prize.  Competing to win.  That makes us all winners.

We look beyond borders and differences and we unify to revel in athleticism.  We encourage those competing to push harder, overcome challenges and fight to cross the finish line first.  We celebrate individuals, teams, countries and the world.

Some say showing up is success.  It takes more than showing up. It takes competition to engage us.  Why?  Competition motivates, inspires and rewards.  It drives us.  It excites us.  It makes our heart beat accelerate.  It is an experience.  Flags wave faster, people stand taller, crowds cheer louder and we watch more intensely when the competition heats up. Good competitions get everyone involved in celebrating success.  Showing up is just doing a job.  Competing is striving to win!  We want to be with the winners.

Have you created a competitive culture in your business?  Does everyone on your team compete to win?  Whether we are awarded gold medals, business awards, new contracts, customers or simply a thank you, the best motivator to drive us is competition.  To win in business, you need to compete.  When you compete internally and externally, you will be rewarded. You will win.

There are many ways to compete in business.  You can easily set up internal competitions to meet deadlines, achieve sales numbers, launch products faster, reach new levels of customer satisfaction, increase profits, grow your customer base, or decrease errors.  There are great financial gains awaiting through external competitions.  Winning new business contracts, opening new markets, reaching higher industry standards, increasing shareholder value, gaining on the competition for market share, all will reward your business and will help drive your team to strive for more.

The worst statement made to an investor is “We have no competition.”  Beyond the absurdity and audacity, is the fear that if you have no competition, you won’t be motivated to win.  Investors love to put money in businesses that are competing in a race to the finish line.  In the eyes of an investor, the finish line may be an exit with a 5 or 6 multiple return on investment.  What is your finish line?  You always have competition, inside and outside of your business.  You always compete.  We invest in those competing to win.

If 200 nations understand the value of competing to win the gold, what is stopping you from doing this in your business?  Competing is winning.  Cultures that compete, win.  Create a culture that embraces winning.  Teams win when they know the goals and they have leaders that encourage them to complete.  They will compete when they are rewarded for winning.

The Olympic spirit is not a myth.  It is a reality. It inspires us.  It is a feeling that touches us deep in our gut and makes us feel emotional about trying hard to achieve something far beyond the reach of most of us.  This same spirit has the power to unite millions from around the world to participate by simply watching others go for gold.  When they win, we win.  Every gold, silver and bronze medal for Team USA, feels like all Americans win!  Every country feels the same about their exceptional team of athletes.  That would make us all winners.  Worldwide winners!

Most people want to be a part of a culture that celebrates winning and achievement.  When is the last time your brought your team together to motivate them to compete. Provided an opportunity to win. When did you last recognize others and reward individuals, teams and the entire business for winning?

Now is the perfect time for you to inject more competition into your business, into your culture.  You can blame it on the Olympic spirit!

We won!

By Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Who Makes the First Impression for Your Business?

Who Greets Your Potential Customers?

First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone.  They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites.  How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?

Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment.  The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition.  The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”

When is the last time were greeted this way?  Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies.  Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business.  The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.

It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression.  I recall three in the past weeks.  One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked.  Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty.  A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me.  Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help.  I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.

Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”

How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership.  Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience.  Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression.  How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?

Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list.  Reputation management is critical and costly.  A bad review is hard to overcome.  You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory.  People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth.  Once word is out, it is permanent.  You own it!

Welcome!

Every experience starts with the greeting.  Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today.  This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online.  Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.

Customer service is a pillar to good business.  Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited.  We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone.  We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.

Invest in your greeting.  Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression.  It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Market to Your Strengths

Market to Your Strengths

Recently at an entrepreneur camp for high school students, I worked with several teams in preparing a 3 minute pitch to sell their inventions and innovations to a panel of professionals.  My focus was to help these young entrepreneurs identify their business and product strengths so they could convincingly sell us on their idea in a very short amount of time — much like the real world.

I shared my experience in managing sales teams and evaluating investor presentations about what works and what does not work in pitching.  I let them know that even the most seasoned professionals can mistakenly focus on the “hot” features without direct alignment to what makes you stand out against your competition.

My lesson, you must compete for mind share before you get market share. Whether selling your idea, your services, your business or just you, always use your valuable marketing resources to promote what makes you better than the rest — your strengths!

Have you identified your market strengths?  Recently? And once you found your strengths, have you effectively managed and built them up in your marketing?

The easiest tool to define your strengths is the simple risk assessment that every marketing plan must include — SWOT Analysis.  No matter the size of your business, you must know your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  

Complete a SWOT Analysis to Find Your Strengths

If you have already completed a SWOT analysis on your company, product or service, dust it off and review it today.  Is it still accurate?  Hopefully you have evolved!  Your strengths are not set in stone.  They are dynamic based on competition, economics, innovation, market growth or decline and shifting attitudes toward your business and products from consumers and employees.

If you have not completed a SWOT Analysis, take out a piece of paper now. Draw four boxes and label them: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  In each box, list out what you currently say, believe or understand as your strengths and your weaknesses, the opportunities you see where you can grow and threats in your business to achieving your goals.

This initial SWOT Analysis is meant to be quick; however, a thorough strategic marketing plan will take more time and resources for a complete evaluation.  You will ultimately want an assessment that has multiple inputs including employees, executives, vendors, partners and current, potential and lost customers.

A SWOT analysis is useful to make sure you are current with messaging on how you are perceived and understood in the market place.  It is a business planning tool that should be evaluated quarterly to make sure market opportunities are seized and threats are assessed and mitigated.

The next step is to audit your current marketing programs and communications to see how effective you are in defining your strengths.  Are you placing all your strengths on the first page, first paragraph, above the fold and in your elevator pitch?  Review your marketing tactics to see how well you represent your strengths. Start your assessment with:

1.  Branding – Do you clearly communicate and represent your strengths in the essence of your brand and your identity?

2.  Communications – Do you detail your strengths in all your marketing communications, including sales presentations, collateral and on your web site?

3.  Sales – Can your sales representatives and customer-facing employees recite your top five strengths?  Where are they detailed in your standard sales presentation?

4.  Public and Analyst Relations – Does your boiler “About Us” include your marketing strengths?  Are you able to weave your strengths into every new release?

5.  Social Media – How often do you remind your fans and followers about your strengths?  Are they listed in your social profiles?  How many weekly posts include mention of your strengths?

In order to create demand and achieve anticipated growth, you need to market to your strengths. Make sure you are consistent, clear and current in your messaging and get the word out why you are better than all the rest.

What is Your Marketing Meme?

Will Your Meme Go Viral?

A meme (pronounced meem) is a packet of social information.  Marketing memes are word associations, beyond a tag line or slogan, that take complex concepts or ideas and make them simple and easy to communicate.

A meme is defined in Wikipedia as “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

Effective memes are potent messaging serums, dripped out over time that enter into our brains and stick. Think of your marketing meme as your viral message.  Who you represent, what you do and what you offer, tightly packaged into one memorable soundbite.

Memes are easy to replicate.  Good memes always communicate value and benefit.  It is the message you want propagated all over the world about you and your business.

I first learned about crafting memes from a Fortune 500 marketing expert who spent his time coaching several solopreneurs on how to market their own businesses.  To some, it may seem odd that an experienced marketing executive would spend weeks learning how to market themselves.  Admittedly, I was resistant at first. After all, I have been responsible for marketing multiple million dollar business for years.

Attitude and all, I threw myself into doing something I was avoiding — marketing me! It is hard to market yourself, let alone dedicate the time required to build your own marketing communications plan.  Truthfully, I needed the discipline and focus to develop my own meme. In the end, besides a business card, it was the best marketing investment I made in starting my own business.

An effective marketing meme is a single powerful statement that communicates the benefits of your products and services.  Here are some simple steps to help you craft an effective marketing meme:

1.  In one sentence, write down what you do for your customers.

2.  Next sentence describe the value you provide to your customers.

3.  Outline the problems you solve in the last sentence.

4.  Now start cutting! Combine the three sentences into one very simple, benefit-oriented sentence.  Answer who, what and why it matters in a single sentence.

5.  Test your meme with the following questions:  Can you repeat that sentence over and over again?  It is easy to remember?  Will your meme invite people to want to know more?

Memes are clear value propositions that roll off the tip of your tongue at every introduction.  An effective meme is not a slogan or headline. It is not an elevator pitch.  You rarely get 30 to 60 seconds to cite a rehearsed sales pitch.  It needs to be tight, concise and memorable.

Use your Meme Everywhere

Memes create lasting impressions. They are the words people will carry with them and tell others about you and your business.  Marketers often suggest that it takes seven times before a message really sticks.  It’s called the Rule of Seven. Will your meme be repeated by every person you tell seven times or more?  If so, then you have truly created an effective, viral marketing meme!

Invest time in creating your meme and start sharing it with world.  Repeat it often, in presentations, in meetings, on the web. Make sure your meme is a simple message that leaves us wanting more.

Special Note:  This post is dedicated to my friend and marketing mentor John Coyne.  He patiently worked with me to create my Artful Thinkers meme. His influence and teachings are still making an impact. He will always have a lasting impression. RIP my friend.

New York City Loves a Parade and Me Too

NYC ticker tape parade honoring John Glenn on March 1, 1962. Credit: Associated Press.

Three visits in a row to New York City and I found myself smack dab in the middle of a parade.  Two of the parades included an appearance by Victor Cruz, lucky me.  None of my trips to The Big Apple were planned around the parades, it just so happened they found me walking to business meetings and roaming around the City that Never Sleeps during a family get-away.

Beyond Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the well known St. Patrick’s Parade, it is obvious to me that New York City loves a lot of parading! And why not? Costumes, sparkle, horns blaring, screaming, loud music, kids everywhere, dancing and marching bands consuming the streets.  It makes you walk a little faster and your heart beat a little stronger. It makes you smile.

Parades bring thousands, or millions if you are in New York City, outdoors to cheer on traditions, heroes, schools, sports teams, celebrities and even politicians.  Parades make you feel good.

I had no affiliation with any of the parades that took place during my recent visits to New York City.  One was for veterans, another for the NFL Super Bowl XLII champs and the latest was the NYC National Puerto Rican Day Parade.  Regardless the event, I was welcome.  Walking along the route, applauding and waving back to those that marched along, it was me and the parade.  It was revelry, cheering the winners and heroes while kids waved their flags with pride. You can’t help but smile.

Parades are uniting.  Parades are parties where everyone is invited.  You are among celebrants of every demographic.  We need more parades. It is one of the few times that blocking off streets and creating congestion seems like a great idea for the community and city dwellers.

Imagine if we had more parades.  More reasons to gather in the streets and celebrate.  Gathering for more than our heritages, causes and associations.  What if we simply gathered in our streets not in protest but to feel good, cheer each other on and unite as one.  I am sure we could find many reasons to have a parade.

Daniel Webster in Central Park

It seemed only appropriate as my family walked through New York Central Park and the parade noise filtered in through the trees, we happened along a statue of Daniel Webster.  The inscription said, “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.”   Yes, liberty to walk free with each other, united together. No discrimination.  Only love and respect.

We need to gather more in celebration and in appreciation.  We need more reasons for kids to cheer, laugh, scream and wave.  New York City loves parades and so should we all.  We need more parades!  I can only hope my next visit to New York City includes another parade.

I love a parade,the tramping of feet,
I love every beat I hear of a drum.
I love a parade, when I hear a band
I just want to stand and cheer as they come.
That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn.
That rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform;
The sight of a drill will give me a thrill,
I thrill at the skill of everything military.
I love a parade, a handful of vets,
A line of cadets or any brigade,
For I love a parade.  — Arden

5 Essential Topics for a Winning Sales Proposal

Selection of Offerings

A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem.  Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.

Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now.  I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution.  It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.

Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client.  Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!

Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:

1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
3. Recommendation
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps

The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client.  Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client.  Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect.  Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.

Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal.  If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation.  If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation.  It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.

Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect.  Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products.  Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.

Warning!  Do not use the needs analysis section to sell.  It is a series of facts of why they need your help.  Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.

The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering.  Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.

Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis.  This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving!  It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation.  Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best.  Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.

Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision.  Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.

Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL.  Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem.  If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer.  You will likely fail.

Now on to Pricing and Terms.  This should be one page (one slide).  Outline your pricing based on your recommendation.  If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation.  Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress.  Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you.  Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!

The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps.  Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work.  Be succinct and use action words.  The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.

The Customer Bites on Your Proposal

Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite.  Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling.  When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver.  People like people who help them!

Life Lessons Learned at the Zoo

Life at the Zoo

A rare reprieve of relentless Arizona summer temperatures provided a great day to visit The Phoenix Zoo.  Walking through all the exhibits inspired me to think about life lessons you can learn at the zoo.

First, I learned my brilliant idea of mixing with animals is not unique. Every year 175 million people visit 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States, according to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Second, getting close to elephants, sharks and wolves has an important financial impact.  The AZA reported in 2011 that zoos and aquariums contributed $16 billion to the US economy and employed more than 142,000 people.

Further observations and life lessons from my day at the zoo:

  • Diversity Exists at the Zoo – Hundreds of species existing together – lions and tigers, oh my!  From reptiles to some of the largest mammals that roam our planet, the zoo is truly diverse.  We are able to see a harmonious place where differences are appreciated and celebrated.  We seek out and marvel at all the distinct unlikeness between varieties of snakes, birds, monkeys and bears.  It is also worth noting that there is great diversity in the people that visit the zoo, all together and at the same time. Travelers from all over the world, all cultures and ethnicity enjoy visiting the zoo — a true melting pot.
  • Community Matters at the Zoo – Most zoos survive with a community of volunteers and public and private donations.  Zoos need communities to promote and participate in supporting the upkeep and daily maintenance.  It is expensive to entertain and educate us.  Zoos need all of us as much as we need them.  Make it a priority to visit your local zoo at least one time a year, better yet become a zoo member!
  • Visiting the Zoo is Healthy – It is outdoors and requires you to get moving!  Most zoos require you to walk great distances to see all the exhibits. Zoos definitely beat out a walk inside the mall and will probably save you money.  As fact, in 2009 a Animal Science Journal study reported zoo visitors had a drop in blood pressure when they left the zoo and felt they had an improved quality of life.
  • The Zoo is Ageless – As marketers and business leaders continually look for ways to segment their target audience, the zoo appeals to all ages!  From babies to seniors, the zoo brings smiles to the young and young at heart.  Families, teens, dating couples, grand parents and small children wander the paths together.  Screaming and crying is expected and crowds draw more people to get a glimpse.  There are no limits at the zoo.
  • Curiosity can Conquer Fear – Imagine starring a tiger in the eye or feeding a sting ray.  Only at the zoo can we conquer our fears so easily.  We can watch the spiders and snakes up close and glare at the wolves as they roam a few feet in front of us.  The zoo allows us to use our curiosity as a way to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Children (and adults) can ride a camel and shake hands with a tree monkey.  Interaction creates an opportunity to learn.  The more we know, the less we fear.
Zebras at the Zoo

As you think about a way to support your local community, go for a long walk and tap into your adventurous side to explore the unknown, I suggest there is no better place to do it all than the zoo!

“We all have a fear of the unknown what one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.” – Lillian Russell

Flying as a Solopreneur

The Flying Solopreneur – Life as the Independent Consultant

Your mind is a beautiful thing, so don’t waste it.  Put it to use as a business.  All of your collective experience gained through enterprise successes and failures can be commercialized into a service business, if you are willing to fly solo.

“Solopreneurs” is the trending word for self-employed entrepreneurs, also known as independent consultants.  On the networking circuit, they are called “single shingles”.  Solopreneur means the business is you! Your commodity is available time.

Business professionals worthy of being hired to fill a gap in an organization based on skill, knowledge and experience, should be open to the opportunity that multiple businesses may benefit and pay for that expertise.

The first step to determining if you are a good candidate to be a solopreneur is to convert your resume into a list of “product” features.  Once you have a good product description, then you need to determine if there is a market for what you are selling. In other words, will businesses pay for your time and the benefits you can provide?

As a solopreneur, you can save time and money by first drumming up attention from those that have witnessed your expertise in action.  Reach out to test your market viability through your network. Using the standard sales technique of asking for a referral, let people know you are open for business and ask your network to share your availability with others.  You may further extend your marketing message by offering referral fees to groups, partners and business associates that help you retain clients.

As a solopreneur, make sure your professionalism is demonstrated in your communications and social profiles.  Have a business card and professional web site that details your “product” and services. Create a professional business email account and secure your social site URLs, if you are going to brand your business beyond your name.

Working independently requires discipline and good time management.  You have to work on your business every day. Solopreneurs typically spend 20-30% of their time working on their business, leaving only 70% of the day working for paying clients.  Expect to dedicate at least three hours a day to marketing, meetings, invoicing and selling your services.

If you choose to be a solopreneur, build an advisory group of successful solopreneurs with expertise different than yours.  Meet once a month to share industry information and advice on how to best manage your business.  As a benefit, they may extend your reach by talking about you to their clients and network.  They should be your best unpaid marketers!

Solopreneurs succeed when they can fill a day of hard work, sharing knowledge and expertise and producing results for those that pay for that mindshare.  I am proud and excited to be flying solo as Artful Thinkers, it is truly an adventure.

Be not simply good – be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

What Does the Brand of YOU Represent?

Winning in the Branding of YOU

Branding is an art and science for marketers.  They blend the key attributes of a product, service or company and position them to appeal to a consumer.

Using scientific research, data and analytics, the brand marketer artfully crafts visual and written communications targeting emotions and logic of the intended audience.  The ultimate goal is to drive to an action, such as buy or like me.

How does this relate to the branding of YOU?  We are all a brand.

Seth Godin defines a brand as “…the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” 

It is how we present ourselves, talk about ourselves and how we are remembered by others.  Branding applies to all aspects of life, professional and personal.  It is the first and last impression of YOU.

If every encounter in life was a personal moment for YOU to brand yourself, what are the words and actions that repeatedly represent YOU?  More importantly, would you want everyone to repeat them over and over again?  Will you be remembered as “Have it your way” (Burger King) or “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonalds) or “Avoid the Noid” (Domino’s Pizza)?

Professional branding is critical for your career.  The words that others use to describe you, are your brand.  You own it.  It may be a definition that comes from a collection of interactions or a single opportunity you had to gain respect and credibility in a brief encounter.

There are several ways for you to represent the brand of YOU.

1.  Introduction.  This is your 90 seconds at a shot of fame.  Whatever comes out of your mouth or you share in an email, is your opportunity to make your brand pitch.  It is the firm handshake opportunity.  Face-to-face, you have an opportunity to say with confidence who you are, what you do and what you represent.  It is the YOU moment.  In email, it is your invitation to draw someone in to know and learn more.  It should be short, to the point and always conclude with a call to action.  Think of it as your 140 character tweet about YOU.

2.  Social Media.  What you post on the Internet is your brand.  And, it does live forever.  It is how you are represented on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and so on.  In other words, the brand of YOU is everywhere you put a comment, post or uploaded something to the world wide web!  Before you hit send or enter, think how it represents YOU.

3.  Your CV.  A curriculum vitae (CV) provides a summary of YOU by experience and skills.  It is your brand summary.  Your CV should clearly articulate your strengths.  It is the summary on your LinkedIn profile.

4.  The YOU Meme.  The one way to control your brand is to have a practiced “meme”.

A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus–that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects.” – Malcolm Gladwell.

Your branding meme is what others take with them and tell others, over and over again.  It is your “viral” message.  A meme should delivered in 60-90 seconds and cover all the unique characteristics that you want others to remember about YOU.

The creation, care and management of the brand of YOU is very important. It has tremendous monetary value.  You are your best brand PR agent, you are the one to spread the word about YOU. The impression you make in the marketplace will confirm YOU are a good “buy” or confirm why people have no interest in buying what you are selling!  How others talk about YOU will affirm what YOU represent.

Take time to think about the qualities of YOU and what YOU represent, then how YOU can position this to others to create actions or get results.  Rehearse your meme.

Like You
Like the Brand of YOU

You can always improve on your brand; however, reputation management is a costly proposition if you have a damaged brand.  Even a lot of money can’t always repair a brand.  We all like brands that represent qualities that are good and positive. Be authentic, truthful and confident.  Make sure that your brand represents the real YOU.

Best Networkers Go Where Others Won’t Go

Yesterday I met with a successful executive coach who is starting to explore opportunities of expanding her business. She was sent to me by a trusted colleague and notable networking expert.  The typical goal of these meetings are to learn about our respective businesses and then make introductions or provide advice on how to reach new clients.  It’s the life of an independent business owner and consultant.

One of the questions I always ask people looking to develop more business is “who owns your customer?”. Often there is pause. Yes, I want to know who owns the relationship with your customer, not who is your customer. The reason I ask this question is to identify the strongest influencers of those potential new customers.  In my experience, it is the shortest path to multiple buyers.

An influencer provides reach and accelerates your ability to grow market share.  Research suggests that we “buy” when we are influenced by someone we trust.  In fact, ninety percent of consumers surveyed in a 2009 Nielsen Survey said they trust recommendations from people they know.

This is not only applicable in retail situations or online recommendations, but also in business services as well. The business community often gives their business to those that come through their trusted network of peers or with whom they have a past relationship. Why? It eliminates the vetting and testing. In the old fashioned sales vernacular, it saves time and money.

Here are a few recommended steps to reaching your influencer:

1.  Identify your influencer, ask yourself who “owns” your customer.

2.  Research your influencer.  Where do they meet?  Who is in their network?  Who are their customers?  What events do they attend?  What association and industry groups do they belong to?

3.  Start following. Not literally stalking of course, but follow companies and connections in LinkedIn, through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages and Google+.  What are they talking about?

4.  Go to events where they gather and start building your circle of influence.

The biggest mistake I see others make in networking to find business is they go to where their friends and competitors go. For example, I am probably less likely to get business at another marketing event, as opposed to hanging out at a physicians conference or speaking at a non-profit event about advisory boards. My competitors do not go to these events, or at least very few do. I get more time to interact.  I can learn more about their needs in a particular industry or market vertical.  More importantly, I can start to build a network of influencers face-to-face.

How do I get those in the room that have nothing in common with me enter into a trusted relationship? I start by listening.  I then offer to make introductions to my trusted network, when there is a good match. I share my knowledge to see where we have similar business interests, like expanding markets, growing revenues.  Sometimes I offer to participate in events as a speaker on mutually defined topics of interest. Finally, I look for ways I can help them achieve their business goals and give them a “sample” of what I have to offer at no charge.

The saying, nothing ventured nothing gained seems to work well in the world of networking for business.  Sole proprietors and consultants have little time to work on their business, as they are the business.  You need to be your own best PR agent and maximize your limited selling time effectively. If you are competing for air time in a room of people that look and talk just like you, that is an educational or skill expanding event. Learn about your craft and further your expertise.  Don’t expect to get customers at these events.

When you want to network for business, go where you expect to see the least amount of your competition. The fewer people that are “talking just like you” that are in the room, the better chance you have to find business. You also create more awareness about your services because you are not a peer. You have more “meme” time. That will drive curiosity, and that opens a door to “sell yourself”.

Venture Out and Be DifferentNetworking is a skill.  Before you say no or turn away from the idea of going to a meeting or speaking at an event of complete strangers, realize that this is where business starts.  Venture out.  Be different. Go where others won’t go.

Grandma and Her Collections

Cable Car Turntable, San Francisco, California

Grandma Elbertine, who we called “Bertie”, was a fine collector of ordinary things. From clothes to matchbooks, she had boxes and closets full of eras gone by. Each collection gave a different “window to the world” and also showed off a bit of her creativity and sense of nostalgia.

Her bedroom bureaus were full of jewelry sets and her closets stuffed with matching shoes, purses and hats. Everything she wore was completely coordinated, another personal charm.  Growing up I spent many hours looking at her precious fashion collections, some of which dated back to the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. She loved to unpack small treasures put away for special occasions.  I would try things on under her careful watch.  I even dared to ask to borrow a fur collar or pillbox hat for a special night out with the strict requirement to return it the next week.  I quickly learned her accessories were a big standout at the discotheque in the late 70’s.

She was her own fashionista and she is still my vintage idol. Beyond her fashions, she had huge collections of middle-America stuff like colored glassware, silver spoons, wall plates, dolls, lace and even buttons. She kept magazines for decades, old toys and drawers of Avon lipstick and perfume samples.  She was a collection pro!

I loved Grandma’s sense of rich style, all which she acquired on department store wages and a little allowance from Grandpa.  From the time when I was a teenager, I have nestled inside me the love for things that remind me of her, from cat eye glasses to broaches.  My soul is stuck in generations past, most of which I only lived through Grandma Bertie and her collectibles.

After she passed, I was given a few of her collectibles by my mom.  I cherish them all.  One of the many Grandma Bertie collections was postcards that spanned travels and vacations across many decades.  They provide another view of the world she experienced. I thought I would share a small sample of them.  It was hard to choose from the hundred postcards I have in a sitting in glass bowl.  Here are a few I thought I would share today.

Postmarked from McClellan AFB, CA October 7 1968 from Lilly & Aunt Lola
Titled: A Little Apache Papoose and His Grandma
Signed from Mother on February 2, 1959
The Beautiful Moana Hotel on the Beach at Waikiki - 50's
Seal Rocks, San Francisco, California, the Cliff House
Chittenden Bridge and Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park - Copyright 1935 by Haynes
Liberace Performing at the Nugget in Reno 1967
Postcard Sent October 4 1967 with 4 cent stamp.

Suspicious? My Experience of Being Profiled in Florida

As the fight for justice continues in the Trayvon Martin killing, I am reminded of my personal experience of being profiled.  I share this story knowing that this happened to me only one time in my life, while others experience this every day. My experience didn’t result in a tragedy, but it did enlighten me to what it is like to be targeted as suspicious.

I was in Miami on vacation with friends. We were riding in a rental car, a new Cadillac Seville.  We flew in that day from Arizona. It was about 1AM and we were returning from a night out, where we had a great dinner in South Beach and then stopped at a hoppin’ Miami night club. We were sober but tired from dancing.  Not one of us drink, so it was just a matter of getting back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning golf game.

Riding back to our 4-Star hotel, I said to my friend Lloyd, who was driving, “Check out that cop car parked on the other side of the road. He is missing a headlight. Who will pull him over?” Next thing I knew, we were being pulled over.  Stunned, I thought now that’s strange.

Then, I experienced the unthinkable as a 39-year-old white woman – blatant racial profiling.  I was a victim of suspicion by association.  I was riding passenger in a new car with two black men.  My two friends were profiled.  I became witness to freedom, justice and liberty for some, but definitely not all.  Not for my friends that night.

It was a police truck that had a service dog in the back with one working headlight, no less. We immediately stopped. Lloyd unrolled his window. “Yes, officer? What did we do?” Immediately, the officer took a hostile tone. “I don’t have to tell you. Give me your driver licenses?”  Lloyd asked, “Everyone?” The cop said, “Yes!”  Again, Lloyd asks, “Why did you turn around and pull us over?”  The cop said, “I didn’t flip around.  I was following you and I don’t need to tell you anything.”

I thought to myself, why would he lie?  The police officer ignored any other questions and kept looking at our license then walked to the back of our rental car.

There were three people in our car. I was in the front passenger seat. Lloyd was driving and our friend was in the back. I thought it was really strange that we had to all give our licenses. I watched him in my visor mirror as he stood behind our car.  He had our licenses in hand and was smelling each of them.

He returned to the front driver’s window, standing far away.  I asked, “Why are you smelling our licenses?” I knew he was trying to see if it smelled like drugs.  He said his nose itched!  It was then I knew this was more than a traffic stop.

Another officer then arrived at the scene. He was hispanic. He told my friend Lloyd, “Man, you are talking too loud. You are making him nervous.  I’m used to black people talking loud, but you are scaring the other officer.” What did I just hear? Now my heart is racing.

The officer then said, “Please get out of the car.” We all proceeded to get out of the car and then I saw the police dog being unloaded from the back of the truck. I am still somewhat shocked and even more angered now, so I followed the cop and the dog as he opened our trunk of the rental car and walked around the car. I am not sure why he let me follow him.  I really thought he might throw something in the car.  It did kind of seem like a bad cop movie.  I was really frightened.  My two friends stood quietly on the curb.

Two more police officer cars arrived on the scene. I started asking for an explanation. “What is going on?” The officer in charge took us aside and said to us, “You see, there was a gray Cadillac in the county next to ours that was involved in a drive-by shooting. It was a black guy with dreads driving.”

My angered response, “Who has dreads in this car? I am white. Our Cadillac is golden brown. And these two black men are completely bald! So, again why were we pulled over? Why was our car just searched?”

The officer said, “Oh, he didn’t understand the police radio call.  He must of been confused.” Are you kidding me? And then it was over.  We were told we could leave.

I never felt more fearful of my freedom.  My liberty.  I kept thinking my company and my family might not know that I was thrown in jail.  I could just disappear.  Is this how it happens?  I have traveled to many other countries and I felt like I was not in my own — the United States of America.  My heart was racing.

Sadly, I know this takes place all the time.  My friends told me so for years. I hear about it from co-workers, family and close friends that are African American.  They tell me it’s called “DWB – Driving While Black”.  Really!  It has a name!  My black friends would tell stories at work and dinner parties about being pulled over for no reason. They get stopped in the street for walking. They get asked where they are going when walking across a parking lot. Never ticketed, just stopped. They are followed in stores.  People lock doors around them, grab their purses on elevators.  I’ve seen it more than once.  They are suspicious.  One good friend was pulled over because his white godson was in the car with him.  The cop said he was just checking on the boy.  You see, my friend is black.  Sometimes we laugh, but it’s not funny. Not at all.

I left Miami shocked and scared.  And, really mad. This is what my friends experience all the time. No equal rights. Profiling. Assumed guilty of doing something. Suspicious! Until then, I had never thought about those that didn’t get to drive or walk away or boys like Trayvon.  Now I see and hear these real life stories and I’m heartbroken. Ten years later.  More now than ever.

Trayvon Martin Family Photo 2012

In the call for justice for Trayvon, I am saddened about parents who have to give civil rights reminders and lessons on how to behave in public to avoid suspicion.  Pull up your pants!  Take down your hoodie! Or what, you might be shot?

I was a senior executive at a global company. My friends were both in law enforcement. I told Lloyd to show the officer his badge when this was happening to us. He said, “No. I shouldn’t have to show him my badge. This shouldn’t happen in America.”  But it did.

They never knew they were in law enforcement until I turned to them all as we got in the car and said, “By the way, you just pulled over two law enforcement people from Arizona.” They just starred. No apology.  I knew in my heart, we were lucky.  We drove away.

I am sorry for all those that don’t get to drive or walk away. Those that are profiled every day. I am sorry for the suspicion, unnecessary and unfair. I know it happens to our young black men every day, our sons, and it only happened to me once. Maybe if more people experience what I experienced, they would understand the shame, danger and disgrace of stereotyping in this country. The unjust and unfair suspicion.  The anger.

Fight For JusticeThe killing of Trayvon because he was “up to no good” is a calling to all of us.  Let’s live up to what our country was founded on, “liberty and justice for all”.  Stop the suspicion. It’s not right. Stop it. Now. It’s time. And, let’s make sure we see justice.  A trial. That’s a start.

Talk is Not Cheap for Entrepreneurs

Planning, Strategizing, Ready to Change the World!

Countless CEO’s and leaders surround themselves with trusted advisers for counsel on a variety of business topics. Plunkett Research estimates $366 billion will have been spent in 2011 on global consulting, including HR, IT, strategy, operations management and business advisory services.

These billions are spent to generate new ideas, validate existing plans and provide strategic vision on solving problems and growing markets.  Most consultants dream of the engagement that is purely focused on strategy, 100% of the time creatively brainstorming on ways to be more, do more and get more.

Whiteboards filled with plans of grandeur, detailed reports, heart-thumping counseling sessions with these hired experts are alluring, especially to an entrepreneur hungry to take their business to the next level.  More revenue!  Less costs!  Decreases in human capital! Increases in productivity!

We have all seen the movie, hand-in-hand the strategist and business leader announce they have a better way. Bring in the team!  With the plan baked, the leader announces to his company, “I have a new idea and you will be responsible for the outcomes.”  The room is silent.

Why? A plan with little or no buy-in from the team sets off alarms.  The people who do the work know that every time they have to implement something new there are great costs.  Time. People. More time.  Did anyone ask for input from the doers?  Who is going to execute this new plan?  Who is going to be accountable?  It is probably not the consultant.

The first step to being a great strategic consultant is to build consensus within an organization.  Identify the problem, interview, validate, analyze and then present recommendations.  Buy-in is critical to achieve the best results. The most important person in every business is the person that actually does the work.  It is easier to get those that don’t do the work to agree with your plan.  What about the people who have to actually implement the program or new revolutionary way of doing business?  Consideration and respect for the doer’s role is essential.

When entrepreneurs take on counsel for one or more advisers, the amount of work that can be created for an organization and the doers can be overwhelming.  In fact, it can result in chaos, lost productivity, decreases in morale and lack of confidence in leadership.  You see, talk is not cheap.  Whiteboard ideas that go from chatter to “let’s do this” have a big cost to an organization.

Every time a consultant sells you on an idea, take the estimated “savings” and reduce by 75% and the estimated “costs” and double it.  It is not the intent of a strategic adviser to mislead his or her client, it is simply a factor of unknowns and assumptions made in the planning.

Leaders need to be able to evaluate every idea, every strategy and every problem solving plan that comes from outside consultants with great care and consideration to those that do the work.  Create consensus.  Ask the team to identify the risks and potential rewards.  Understand buy-in takes time and capital.

Business strategy consultants may be a very wise investment to spark innovation, challenge a new idea or share experiences to avoid pitfalls.  Define accountability in execution.  Too much time on strategy can actually be detrimental to any business. It is tactics that move the needle. Tactics are completed by doers. The “labor pool” gets the job done.

So, the next time a consultant sells you a “great idea”, remember talk is NOT cheap.  Be cautious, measure your tactics and define your outcomes.  Get buy in from your team before you “buy the plan” and know your costs, which are always far more than the just the consultant’s fee.

A 21st Century War on Women – Really?

Women Work Women Vote
What next, our right to vote? War on Women is Absurd!

Why? Colleagues, friends and family of both genders and all political persuasions continue to shake our heads in disbelief. The dialogue today is stunning.  Shocking. Are we really going to have a “new” discussion about women’s role in society, reproductive rights and ability to think for ourselves?

It is 2012 and the national conversation has centered on several issues that disrespect, disregard and dismiss women.  It started long before a group of men wanted to discuss the government’s role in paying for birth control.  We have been waging this war for over a century.  Recently, it started surfacing again when several state legislators across the country proposed new rules and regulations that would prevent women from getting access to healthcare. Some have succeeded already (Texas, Virginia) and others are still sadly working to limit access and care. (Arizona).

We’ve seen the debate cycle through various forms, all with a strong movement to limit women’s access to affordable, necessary and reliable healthcare. The subtext of it all that seems to be the most shocking is the derogatory tone of the dialogue.  As a women, it says to me “shut up and sit down”.  Really?  Um, no!

I have the ability and can afford to stand up.  What happens with the poor?  Those that don’t have access to women’s healthcare and family planning?  The new discussions go far beyond just limiting birth control and forcing women to have unnecessary ultrasounds to prevent abortions.  No to mammograms, no to ovarian cancer tests.  Access to preventative care that can SAVE lives.  Where is the logic?  If we limit reproductive healthcare, aren’t we going to force more demand for abortions?  Unwanted pregnancies seem to be the impetus for abortion, so wouldn’t access to affordable family planning help prevent abortions?  Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 29.

Aside from the discussion of a women’s right to choose, the bigger and broader debate today is how we got back to this discussion 40 years later?  90 years later for equal rights?  What has changed in the country that puts women’s rights at risk – again?

Some may argue that women took for granted that we achieved equality without the need to make it a protected right.  We assumed we are in control of our own health and well-being.  Women’s health should not be up for discussion.  It’s not political.  Saving lives is not political.  If women did “assume” we were in control, was this an assumption of grand illusion?  It appears so.

Women have fought for rights that men have been granted solely by their gender.  Look at the suffrage movement and fight for the right to vote nearly a century ago.  It appears that our rights should not be taken for granted and the fight is not over.  We must press on.  Future generations of women depend on us.  Women need affordable healthcare.  Women need to be in control of their own bodies.  Women need equal pay for equal work.  Women need the same rights as men. It’s not political.

So, in case it needs to be said, we pay taxes.  And, we vote!  The “War on Women” will continue, there is no doubt.  I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”  "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"We won’t put aspirin between our knees.  We won’t accept zealot misogynists and bigots telling us to shut up and be happy with our diamonds and dinners.  We won’t go back to being submissive house help.  Our nation can’t afford it economically and women want more and have proven our place in society!

We are women in the board room, women in political office, women CEO’s, working moms, we are women in every profession.  We are scientists, technologists, chefs and journalists.  We are single moms, we are married women, independent women and women with a voice.  We are rich.  We are poor.  We are fighters.  We protect and we give birth.  Every one came from a mother!  We all exist because of a woman.  So, why the war?

Most importantly, we are the women that vote.  We won’t fight this war for long.  You see, we just assumed it was over.  Women are equal.  Maybe it is time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that was first proposed in 1923.  Maybe then, the war would be over!  Maybe.

Young Entrepreneurs are Making Our Future

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of high school students and their teachers at the ASU Polytechnic campus.  What I gained from the experience is far greater than what I was able to share through my decades of entrepreneurial successes and failures.

I was inspired.  I was motivated.  I was reassured.  Partly, it was the kids who like science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Partly, it was spending time at a progressive technology campus that fosters growth and innovation. Partly, it was through the introduction of Arizona State University innovators who shared their pitches about their latest ventures.

Were we this exciting, inventive and determined when we were in school?  Did we have this much wide-eye optimism that we could and would change the world?  They believe they can solve all problems.  They are not discouraged, they are encouraged.  I know our future is very bright, if we do not kill their momentum with “no” and “you can’t”.

Ask 19-year-old serial entrepreneur Daniel Brusilovsky, founder of Teens in Tech Labs.  He is working on his fourth start-up, or maybe he sold his fourth and is on his fifth and sixth.  His success to-date is dizzying. He is our future.  Standing on stage at the event, he was a true representation of what is possible in this world.  He has more connections to VCs and angels than most veteran start-up and CEOs could ever dream.  Why?  He’s cool.  He’s smart.  He’s ambitious.  He’s our future. Investment-wise, he has all upside!

I am absolutely certain that we are in great hands, if we really do want to be better and do more.  Along with Daniel, my enthusiasm grew after meeting other entrepreneurs like Marcos, who is enthusiastically working on customer retention, the Maker Pitch winners that are bringing to market a medical device to build arm strength for wheel-chair bound people, and the two students that are working on providing clean water around the world.  I say YES!  I say go!  How can I help?

And, then I met three men.  ASU students who shared their pitch with me and the co-founder of GarageBand.  They couldn’t look us in the eye, they were outside their comfort zone.  But they had unbridled motivation telling us about their business.  They are going to change and save lives.  They will provide people living with autism needed mentors via an online community.  They want to bring genius back into society, show autistic people how they can work together and give them access to tools they need to integrate successfully.  They know it’s needed.  They know people without autism do not understand and can not provide the help.  They each are autistic.  Yet, no matter how difficult and challenging it was to share their passionate business idea and plans, they did it.  They are determined.  They will do it.  I will find a way to help!

Let us “experienced” get out of their way, provide them support and harness their creativity.  Let us invest in their ideas and encourage them to do more.  They are our innovators.  They are our future.  If we do, we can all say our future is very bright!

My presentation to Making Your Future: http://www.slideshare.net/jglass8/future-is-solving-problems-2012

Be Resolute and Ban Resolutions

Resolute in 2012

Do you remember your declared resolutions of 2011?  Did you succeed in keeping your resolution for the entire year?  If so, congratulations!  The fact remains, if you did keep your resolution for 365 days, you are one of a very small percentage of those that actually set a goal and achieved it.

I typically do not set out the year with a new resolution.  I can only recall setting a goal to read a book a week a few years ago, and yes, I did accomplish my goal.

According to a research study sponsored by the Ford Foundation, 67% of the population has a general idea of what they want; however, they do not have any plans for how to get it.  The same study suggests that only 3% of people say they achieve their goals.

Why compete with a 97% likelihood of failure?  It is not very encouraging, to say the least.  If we do succeed, we can at a minimum say we accomplished something most people will not.  I believe declaring annual resolutions is setting a plan for failure on the first day of a new year.  Our odds of staying “resolved” for the entire year aren’t in our favor.  In fact, they are quite dismal.  Time for a change!

Let’s ban the annual ritual of “resolving” goals.  Instead, we simply need to be more resolute!  Random House Dictionary defines resolute as firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion and characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper,spirit, actions.

In 2012, let’s all be more resolute!  Imagine what we can accomplish. The fact remains we have far greater odds of succeeding in our goals if we put action and determination into our daily purpose.  Temptation to stray from our goals happen when we lose our resoluteness.   We need a “Make it Happen” attitude.  If we lived our lives with such steadfastness, we don’t need resolutions.

We may still fail and fail often; however, by being resolute every day, we have far greater chance at succeeding at something.  Being resolute allows us to look back every day to see what we accomplished.  I suggest that if we are resolute about everything we do, all day and every day, our confidence will soar, and we will do more.

Time to ban resolutions! I did not set a 2012 resolution this New Year.  Instead, I will be resolute. I am certainly determined to do more and be more this next year, and I am resolute to make it so!

Happy New Year

Who Professes Our Need for Fairness?

There seems to be a lot of discussion today about fairness.  What does it mean to you? In the dialog, the central theme seems to focus on the perception of what fair means to the individual.  Often through an increased volume, they would like you to agree with their individual point of view of what fairness should mean.

My question is, what is fair for everyone?  Could we agree on something so subjective? Can fairness be universal?  In reaching for words of wisdom on the topic of fairness and how others might think about its application, I found the following:

It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. -Eleanor Roosevelt

These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only.  This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. – Abraham Lincoln

Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. – Leviticus 19:15

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

In our hearts and in our laws, we must treat all our people with fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation… – Bill Clinton

Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish. – Thurgood Marshall

Win or lose, do it fairly. – Knute Rockne

There are others that would be included on this list of quotes and words that should inspire us.  What is obvious is fairness is not individual.  Fairness comes from the origins of evenhandedness.  And that requires more than one.  The exact definition for fairness:  the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness.

So, as we try to square the conversation on fairness for one and all, maybe we can first focus on what’s fair for you and fair for me.  Starting at two, might help us get to a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, a million and beyond to agree.

“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense.”… “We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less.””The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”  ― Teddy Roosevelt

History in our Midst

I Have a Dream
History in the Making

In less than 48 hours, I had the unique opportunity to meet with two men that have made history. Historic by standards that won’t measure with well known names in history books; however, historic in business, politics and leadership.

Both men are in their eighth decade of life. Their experience is beyond the riches most can’t even fathom. One was a Holocaust survivor who built enterprises and rebuilt a nation. One has provided homes to thousands and funded community projects including a library and hospital wing.

Their advice and wisdom gives me hope. Neither sees our divides and obstacles today as monumental. All will be solved in time. They observe, they listen, they know.

My time with both was short. I knew in listening to them each offer me and my business colleagues advice, we were all wiser and more experienced. I know that even in the few hours I was in the midst of these historic men, there where pearls that could not compare to any time I spent reading or learning through my own success and failure.  How do you compare your own experience to people that have changed lives for hundreds, thousands and even millions?

Time with people that have made history is the most valuable time we have in any given day.  There is history all around us.  Some are quietly observing and waiting for you to ask “Tell me your story”.  The honor of meeting history twice in the same week is monumental.  I am changed and I know more.

What did I learn? We can do more than what we are asked to do today, we should do more for ourselves, our families and all mankind and take nothing for granted because you can make a difference.  Maybe even make history!

Random Thoughts

Thankful

Starting with Thanks!

What better day to start a blog than Thanksgiving. A day reserved on our calendar for thanking those that have loved us, supported us and given us purpose. I am thankful to everyone in my life. You make me better, wiser and grateful.

My blog serves no direct purpose to persuade or position. It is a destination for random thoughts, beyond the 140 characters. It will include business ideas and discussions, along with questions and thoughts about the world.

Enjoy your holiday and hope to give you more randomness in the days to follow.